Whenever a tragedy occurs, or when a need is needed, the first thing uttered by my fellow Americans is that government should do something. I’m not sure where this comes from. Perhaps it originated from Roosevelt’s New Deal (which was an overhaul of government responsibilities, turning it into more of a nanny state) and snowballed from there.
When it comes to healthcare, many ask what government can do. When it comes to violence in the schools, it turns to what government can do. When it comes to the poor, it turns to government. When it comes to opioid abuse, we ask what government can do. Seems more and more, people think there’s something magical about the institution of government that can take care of needs. But despite more money and programming going into things like healthcare, schools, the war on drugs, the poor, the quality and expense continues to rise.
With government failing to deliver time and again, I’m surprised when I hear someone ask it to do something. Like with every psychic, astrologer, prayer warrior or telepath I’ve ever met, the perceived magic seems to be missing. They say they can divine a solution, but when they’re put to the test, they fail.
I think the appeal is twofold. Whereas the psychic or astrologer gets it right sometimes due to chance, so too does government. We remember the hits, and forget the misses although the misses far outnumber the hits. But government has a second factor a woo-woo warrior doesn’t. It is the advantage of using force to implement its programming.
If you can’t get your way through cooperation or competition, you can always appeal to government to force it to happen. If you don’t like people having access to firearms, you can appeal to government to pass a law to prevent people from having firearms. If you want doctors to provide you with services at a lower rate, you can petition government for price capping. And if you’re hungry, you can always appeal to government to use someone else’s money (food stamps) to go grocery shopping. Basically, if you can’t sell your ideas to voluntary participants, you’re only solution is using force.
It seems it’s easier for my fellow Americans to try to force their wills and desires instead of looking for like-minded people, shopping in the free market for reduced prices, communicating with their neighbors and communities for services and needs. It’s more time consuming to convince someone than to force someone into something they’re not likely to want to be a part of.
But, as we noted, most government programming is made up of misses
Imagine going to a restaurant and routinely getting bad service and yet, showing up every Sunday morning and eating another awful meal. Time and again, Sunday after Sunday. And one day, you get a delicious pancake. It’s bound to happen just on chance. Human psychology is geared to remember that pancake and repress all the negativity that came before it.
On a less hypothetical note, it’s the same pathology at work with domestic violence victims. Months of abuse go by and one day, the abuser brings flowers. Those are now the best flowers the victim has ever received and will post them to social media, put them prominently on her desk at work.
We are built to remember the hits, forget the misses. The government has a lot of misses and that’s what we need to focus on. We need to take the same stance against the government as we in the skeptical community take against psychics, snake oil salesmen and charlatans all alike. We have to shine a spotlight on all the misses. This will demonstrate government isn’t the solution. If more people realize this, we can reduce the number of agencies and programs the government involves itself in and get it back on track to the rights and property protections it’s good at.
In order to do this, we need to take an audit of what’s going on. We need to start asking government exactly what do they do in Washington?
In the 1999 movie, OFFICE SPACE, Bob Slydell and Bob Porter, a pair of consultants simply known as “The Bobs” interview employees of the software company, Initech, to determine if their positions are relevant. The goal is to downsize the company if need be based on their findings. The movie is nearly twenty-years old and anyone who’s worked in an office setting can relate to it. The movie has generated memes and quotes that will surely last another twenty. When confronted with a printer that isn’t responding, I still find myself whispering “PC Load Letter? What the fuck is PC Load Letter?” Do yourself a favor and see the movie if you haven’t. Even if you don’t work in a traditional office.
At any rate, after reflecting on this movie as of late, it dawned on me that what the federal government needs is a pair of Bobs.
We need to review every government program and determine if it’s working. And even if it is, we have to ask if it could better be handled in the free market. My guess is the results of this study would confirm that most government programming is siphoning away real productivity that could better be handled in the free market. We could confirm the need to drastically downsize a bloated institution. It might even come down to the point where we wouldn’t need a full-time congress anymore. We could have members of the Senate and House work real jobs during most of the year and, at best, come together the first two weeks every January and during times of national emergency to discuss the business of rights and property of the country.
Quotes from OFFICE SPACE but I imagine would be a typical sampling in the transcript of my hypothetical audit:
Bob Slydell: You see, what we’re actually trying to do here is, we’re trying to get a feel for how people spend their day at work… so, if you would, would you walk us through a typical day, for you?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
Bob Slydell: Great.
Peter Gibbons: Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door – that way Lumbergh can’t see me, heh heh – and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour.
Bob Porter: Da-uh? Space out?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I’m working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.