I am always amazed when I see well educated, seemingly worldly people make themselves look and sound silly by promoting ever more aggressive expansion of government. We are currently in our national election cycle, admittedly the silly season for politicians. This year, however, the “nanny state" prescriptions on offer seem particularly vacuous.
The one absolute I KNOW about government is this: Government is not in business to solve problems, government is in business to institutionalize problems!
Bureaucracies evolve to protect and expand their turf. All start with claims of the highest purpose. The perceived need to address some element of life that has been under-regulated or policed will be assigned to a phalanx of bureaucrats and we, the public, will be able to sleep much better as a result.
Think about this fact and ask yourself: Where has a bureaucracy ever settled a problem, cured an injustice, or efficiently functioned.
Private enterprises, churches, charities and entrepreneurs live in a competitive maelstrom. They adapt to market realities or they die. Look at the original Dow Jones Industrial Average members from the early 20th century and ask, “where are they now"? General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler, behemoth international concerns, are in a real struggle for survival. Their conduct of affairs and changing business models will determine if they go the way of Montgomery Ward, Sharper Image, Wang Computer, American Motors and Bell and Howell and float off into that corporate graveyard in the sky.
The reason we enjoy the most advanced economic lifestyle in history is precisely because private enterprises can, and do fail. Not, however, government agencies and bureaucracies. They simply grow, bigger, fatter, more sluggish and flaccid. This relentless growth is accompanied by the continual whaling for more. More bureaucrats, more funding, more rules; just give us more and this time we will get the job done.
The economy is currently experiencing a cyclical softening. A study of economic history indicates that we go through something akin to this every seven or eight years. When the economy slows, tax receipts logically slow as well. What we get from government at all levels is the familiar bromide: “We are cut to the bone"!
No we are not. There is no government agency that can find the bone. The waste, fraud, program duplication, over-staffing and lack of productivity endemic in government at all levels is simply stupendous.
The government enjoys a monopoly in the running of mail delivery through the Post Office. It ain't called snail mail for no reason. The service requires a subsidy each and every fiscal year to cover losses. If it were a business, it would be gone.
Marvin Runyan was the Postmaster General for President Jimmy Carter. The business model for what would become Federal Express was in the process of raising venture capital funding during his tenure. When asked about the concept of overnight package delivery from anywhere, to anywhere, with guaranteed next day delivery, Mr. Runyan commented: “It can't be done".
The perfect metaphor for government bureaucracy: “It can't be done"!
The government must subsidize billions of dollars of losses each year for Amtrak. Passport processing is a national embarrassment. Medicare fraud is reported and confirmed to the tune of tens of billions of dollars each year. IRS computer systems, after massive spending, are archaic. The list of waste, corruption and ineptitude in government, at all levels is astounding.
We have a $9 trillion national current accounts debt. Far worse, we have a debt for Social Security and Medicare of somewhere (nobody can really calculate this accurately) north of $50 trillion! For a fraction of this level of mismanagement, managers of private enterprises are put in jail.
Whenever a city announces a public investment in building sports stadiums or museums you can count on the fact that the edifice will come in late and over budget. The same with any road project. The “Big Dig" in Boston, or the Los Angeles subway, were classic examples of incompetence and mismanagement.
Recently I visited my old parochial high school. While speaking with the Principal I noticed students unloading a truck and taking used desks into the school building. I commented about the desks, “where did they come from"?
His reply: a neighboring public high school received a grant that they used to purchase new desks. “They offered them to us, or they would be thrown away. We will get another 20 years use out of them". Maybe this is just one small anecdotal instance, but multiply this by millions of such irresponsible decisions and the harm done to our economy, and to taxpayers, is simply too stupendous to calculate.
Why is there no outrage? In fact, we experience the antithesis of outrage: we vote the bums back in, election cycle after election cycle. Each political party, all candidates, every year promise more of what any blind man can see does not work.
There is a simple cure (it will never happen, though). No person who receives a government check should be allowed to vote. Government employees, program beneficiaries, contractors or lobbyists should never be able to vote for a politician who has the ability to promise a financial benefit paid for with other peoples money. This is bribery in its simplest form.
Since it will never happen, how about this for a dose of common sense: Simply vote for the politician promising the smallest government. The idea that the government can successfully nationalize oil companies, or manage our medical system is ludicrous. There is no evidence that government operated bureaucracies at any level will be examples of good operative governance.
Proponents of these hare brained schemes are too stupid to be entrusted with such power. They, and their acolytes, should simply be asked: “What have you ever successfully managed"? Common sense is in monumentally short supply when evaluating the real performance of local, state and national government agencies. To fund evermore waste, fraud and corruption flies in the face of everything that we empirically know actually goes on in this cesspool.
Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.
After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B. A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.
Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. (http://www.duquesamarketing.com ) has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.