Saturday, May 17, 2008


Hillary Clinton is quoted in the New York Times as saying, "Here we are, the greatest nation in the world, the greatest problem solvers, but we’re not solving our problems,” as she lamented the "paralysis" of government.

What, as usual, is not pointed out here is that the "free market" is the greatest solver of problems, government is the greatest creator of them. When the free market is allowed to function, without interference from government all kinds of problems can be solved and with competition and profit motive the solutions often get better and cheaper over time.

The best example of better and cheaper that I know of is the telecommunications business. AT&T once held a government sponsored monopoly on everything from putting the lines in the ground to owning the telephone set in your house (seriously, prior to 1984 you could not own your own telephone, by law you had to rent it. Today, a nice handset is $9.95 at Circuit City or Best Buy). At that time you might pay 50 cents per minute to call Chicago (I recall paying around 40 cents per to call my girlfriend in Chicago around 1988 or 1989).

Then competition opened up and companies like Sprint and MCI (now merged in with Verizon) put fiber optic cables in the ground. Rates for calls plummeted, new services and features (like caller ID) came on the scene, and then we got the Internet and DSL services, and now you can even call China for a few pennies a minute or even free using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology.

Of course, there are always lots of factors but think about this. In 1988 it costs over 40 cents per minute to call Chicago from Indianapolis. Today I can do it for a penny or three and that is AFTER inflation.

There are numerous examples, but looking to the government for solutions generally just means more government, more bureaucracy, more potential for administrative bloat and generally ever higher taxes to pay for it all. This is not hyperbole or partisan rhetoric, but facts that almost everybody agrees to. So many of our problems today are largely because government got involved or restricted others from doing so.

So many things we keep asking government to "fix" or "give us" are things they have already screwed up with taxes, regulation, restrictions, subsidies or other interference. This includes healthcare, the price of gas, inflation, the terrorist threat, jobs and corporate activity moving overseas all the way down to having to flush your toilet two or three times because the water limit is set too low.

Think about that. The Federal Government is big enough to have worried itself about how much water should be allowed in the bowl of your toilet. What else does it take to convince someone that government has gotten too big, with too much time and money on its hands and will continue to find more ways to be intrusive in our lives. Once government takes over healthcare they will probably decide we're all too fat and ban Twinkees and Soda Pop (which, thanks to government intervention in sugar markets has never been the same since bottlers started using corn syrup).

So when people say, "only law breakers ever need fear the government" just remember that something as silly has making toilet or shower head that uses just a tad too much water is a crime. And here are some other great examples of silly "governmentness" in an article at Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow:

So, please, let's just open things up so that the free-market, entrepreneurs and regular people can solve the problems and not rely on politicians to figure everything out for us. They aren't good at it.


varangianguard said...

So then, what would we do with all of the bureaucrats who would be left without employment?

Are you talking about a phasing out, or a simple locking of doors?

Sean Shepard said...

That's a good question and highlights concerns all of us would have about even the government bureaucrat's livlihood and family.

In any sort of grand government rightsizing program, I would favor a phasing out or transfer to state control & authority.

Take the IRS for example. If we eliminated the income tax and switched to the FairTax. 90% of the IRS is no longer needed.

While that does put some people out of work, let's keep in mind the Federal Government is not a "jobs program". There has to be some faith, confidence, belief or understanding (in and about economics) to know that as government expenditures (and taxation) were reduced or streamlined, the private sector would grow.

Imagine if the U.S. had no income tax at all. What does that do to investment in America (domestic and foreign) and job creation? The "slack" gets made up very, very quickly and economic growth would explode.

The difference becomes which do you want to feed. Unchecked government or free and open markets where consumers and businesses vote with their purchases every day?

Rapidly growing our economy and drastically cutting government spending are two mandatory steps needed now to keep our government solvent over the next couple of decades.