Skip to comments.Can Government Do Anything Well?
Posted on 04/11/2012 5:48:49 AM PDT by Kaslin
I'm suspicious of superstitions, like astrology or the belief that "green jobs will fix the environment and the economy." I understand the appeal of such beliefs. People crave simple answers and want to believe that some higher power determines our fates.
The most socially destructive superstition of all is the intuitively appealing belief that problems are best solved by government.
Opinion polls suggest that Americans are dissatisfied with government. Yet whenever another crisis hits, the natural human instinct is to say, "Why doesn't the government do something?"
And politicians appear to be problem-solvers. We believe them when they say, "Yes, we can!"
In 2008, when Barack Obama's supporters shouted, "Yes, we can!" they expressed faith in the power of government to solve problems. Some acted as if Obama were a magical politician whose election would end poverty and inequality and bring us to "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."
At least now people have come to understand that presidents -- including this president -- can't perform miracles.
In other words: No, they can't! -- which happens to be the title of my new book.
Free people, however, do perform miracles, which is why "No's" subtitle is: "Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed."
Those who believe an elite group of central planners can accomplish more than free people need some economics. I hope my book helps.
People vastly overestimate the ability of central planners to improve on the independent action of diverse individuals. What I've learned watching regulators is that they almost always make things worse. If regulators did nothing, the self-correcting mechanisms of the market would mitigate most problems with more finesse. And less cost.
But people don't get that. People instinctively say, "There ought to be a law."
If Americans keep voting for politicians who want to spend more money and pass more laws, the result will not be a country with fewer problems but a country that is governed by piecemeal socialism. We can debate the meaning of the word "socialism," but there's no doubt that we'd be less prosperous and less free.
Economists tend to focus on the "prosperous" part of that statement. But the "free" part, which sounds vague, is just as important. Individuals and their freedom matter. Objecting to restrictions on individual choice is not just an arbitrary cultural attitude, it's a moral objection. If control over our own lives is diminished -- if we cannot tell the mob, or even just our neighbors, to leave us alone -- something changes in our character.
Every time we call for the government to fix some problem, we accelerate the growth of government. If we do not change the way we think, we will end up socialists by default, even if no one calls us that.
Pity us poor humans. Our brains really weren't designed to do economic reasoning any more than they were designed to do particle physics. We evolved to hunt, seek mates, and keep track of our allies and enemies. Your ancestors must have been pretty good at those activities, or you would not be alive to read this.
Those evolved skills still govern human activities (modernized versions include game-playing, dating, gossiping). We're hardwired to smash foes, turn on the charisma and form political coalitions. We're not wired to reason out how impersonal market forces solve problems. But it's mostly those impersonal forces -- say, the pursuit of profit by some pharmaceutical company -- that give us better lives.
Learning to think in economic terms -- and to resist the pro-central-planning impulse -- is our only hope of rescuing America from a diminished future.
No one can be trusted to manage the economy. I began by criticizing Obama, but Republicans may be little better. Both parties share the fatal conceit of believing that their grandiose plans will solve America's problems. They won't.
But cheer up: Saying that government is not the way to solve problems is not saying that humanity cannot solve its problems. What I've finally learned is this: Despite the obstacles created by governments, voluntary networks of private individuals -- through voluntary exchange -- solve all sorts of challenges.
Spend other people’s money?
Thge government excels at taking money from honest citizens and giving it to well connected donors.
The interstate highway system is pretty damned good. I’ve been in lots of countries and this is about as good as it gets, certainly so for such a large country
The military is the best in the world. It is wasteful but the missions and troop safety trump economics
I’m at a loss for number three.
The Church is a great example of this. Sure, for a few centuries in some countries the pope was also the supreme political figure, but the Church has succeeded in addressing human problems over the long haul - and most of the time when she did not enjoy political power.
Hospitals, schools and monasteries are great examples of private actors banding together to solve problems.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Every election cycle, we send ~98% of the Congress back in the belief that they will fix the problems they created. They can't and they won't.
When I was a kid, we used to say "why doesn't the government do something about this?" as a joke because we knew that whatever the situation was, individuals were the solution, NOT government.
Unfortunately, what used to be a joke is now a widespread belief. And, everytime the government steps in to "do something", they make a bad situation worse. That's why I am a strong proponent of strict term limits that require us to rotate incompetents out of Congress as quickly as possible and don't allow "public service" to be an exceptionally high paying career choice. It was never intended to be but we have allowed the inmates to control the asylum.
Liberals always spend other people’s money
If our current military was under the command of the WW1 or WW2 type of commanders, than I would say that it would definitely be good at waging war. However, due to Clinton and now, Obama’s dismantling of the military and preference given to PC leaders instead of warfighters, its not even that good at that.
Other than that, they suck.
There’s one thing government can do that individuals cannot do better, and that’s killing people.
The Government Does many things Well:
1) Create war on individual rights(Nazi Germany)
2) Create Economic chaos(Robert Mugumbe)
3) Create a culture of death(Khmer Rouge)
4) Create generational conflict (Mao’s cultural Revolution)
5) Create Mass emigration( Castro’s Cuba)
6) Create a police state( North Korea)
7) Create famine( Ukraine Famine)
8) Create environmental disaster(Soviet Union)
9) Create religious totalitarianism ( Saudi Arabia)
10) Create racial conflict ( Obama’s USA)
Government does absolutely nothing well! It must however, undertake to do the VERY FEW things that cannot legitimately be done by the private sector.
If you begin with the presumption that government action will result in the opposite of its stated aim, then you could say expectations are consistently achieved.
Oh no, not that, I was referring to aiming the military.
I can barely find employment in the private industry, and I'm certain I could run the economy better than most people in government.
At one time when the US had a War Department we could win wars. Now we can’t even beat a third world country.
Understood, just making a half-joke. :^)
In light of the GSA scandal and other government waste, fraud, and abuse, I would suggest that instead of a millionaires tax that government abolish all public employee unions and apply the dues to deficit reduction.