SIX POLITICAL ILLUSIONS
By Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© June 2014, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
The following is excerpted from a book by James Payne entitled Six Political Illusions; A Primer on Government for Idealists Fed Up with History Repeating Itself.
Illusion 1. That government has vast quantities of money to do things. The reality is they are broke. Most Western governments today operate on debt, and must extract more and more money out of the people through taxation until the government and the nation collapses. This is the reality of governments today.
Illusion 2. That government and taxation are voluntary. The reality is that government is always force. George Washington said this, but few people understand it. This means that the government really has no money because it does not produce goods or services for a profit. In some nations, the government does own businesses, but they are often run inefficiently and are corrupt, so they often lose money. For example, in most nations, the government runs the postal service. However, it usually loses money and is run very badly.
Illusion 3. That government programs operate simply and cleanly, as compared with the somewhat chaotic private and capitalist sector of the economy. The reality is that ALL government programs are plagued by waste, fraud and abuse that is far worse than that which occurs in the private sector. The reason for this is called perverse incentives.
This means that government programs and enterprises do not have incentives to save money, to be innovative, to reduce the size of their own departments, or to prosecute fraud and abuse. Indeed, the incentives are the opposite:
1. A larger department means more power and better job security.
2. A more expensive department or program means more power and more job security. Innovation means your job may be threatened.
3. And abuse of power – taking care of your friends and punishing those who oppose you – is standard in government programs and enterprises. The temptation to abuse power is enormous, and there are few ways to really stop it.
This is why experts agree that government-run projects such as Obamacare, the post office and the others always cost 3 to 4 times as much as privately run businesses. It has to do with incentives and the difficulty of stopping corruption in government. Private businesses go bankrupt when not run efficiently. Government enterprises just keep on going.
Illusion #4. That just money alone can buy public policy results. For example, just giving money to the poor people in the form of food stamps, welfare and other programs will solve social problems. In fact, much more than money is required to end poverty, sickness and other social problems. Just throwing money at the problem often makes it worse, in fact.
Illusion #5. That government is smarter, wiser and more knowledgeable than the private sector. Therefore, we should defer to organizations such as the Food and Drug Administration, and to federal transportation, housing, health and other departments.
In fact, little expertise is needed to get government jobs and those who obtain them are often more interested in job security and power than in job excellence. This is the nature of government jobs and government employees, generally speaking.
In addition, governments often act stupidly and politically, not wisely, even when there are good people working in the government. This occurs because the workers are often insulated from the reality “on the ground” or “on Main Street”. It also occurs because the very nature of government is political. Therefore, everything associated with government programs is affected by politics, much more than in the private sector.
Illusion #6. That government is really the only institution capable of solving problems. In reality, small groups of individuals operating locally are far more capable of solving most types of problems that arise in a society. They know the problems better because they are there, and they can solve problems with less waste, fraud and abuse.
All this is important to ponder before you vote for another government program.