Today, an unprecedented amount of individual responsibilities have been delegated to the Federal govt. This trend has been to the detriment of our society. What is the goal of any human? The goal of any person is to make their life better, whether through more money, more security or less work; everything we do is geared towards this goal. In Mises’s own words;
“Action based on reason, action therefore which is only to be understood by reason, knows only one end, the greatest pleasure of the acting individual.”
Therefore, we cannot expect the individuals who compose the public sector to act contrary to their own best wishes. So to see what we should expect from our public employees, we should look at what actions they should take to advance their (and not ‘society at large’s) aims. We will compare for each goal what the respective incentives for private vs. public individuals.
One of the biggest goals of employees (especially ones with families) is job security. What actions does a private employee have to take to ensure job security? One of the best things a private sector employee can do to ensure he will come back tomorrow would be to Be as productive as possible, maximize profit, and ensure that customers have a nice experience while using whatever product or service is being produced.
How does a government employee stay employed? Under no circumstances “should” a public employee accomplish anything if they want to keep their job. The fastest way to end a govt. program would be to solve the problem it was created to solve, right? The employee should perform poorly, thus retaining a deficiency, causing lawmakers to throw more money at it…. in the hopes that voters will see how much they care. Under no circumstances would any lawmaker cut the headcount at a dept before the “problem” has been solved; coincidentally, few problems are ever actually solved.
Pay is usually the reason why people show up to work; without it, we would all be slaves. How does the private sector employee get more pay? They do more with less, show they’re ready for more responsibility, and then accept a larger role once they get it. Private employees are frequently on a commission system where they are directly rewarded for each “win.” Raises are rarely handed out to those who have not contributed to the success of the underlying business of which the employee is attached to . Frugality is rewarded, as it is directly beneficial to the employer.
If you are associated with a government organization, you often recieve raises that are independant of your contributions. The organization gets more money as it spends more. When I was in the US Navy, I remember several times our spares’ representatives made purchases of thousands of dollars of equipment, while defending the purchase as “necessary so we don’t lose money next quarter.” The only metric that the govt. has to go on, in order to judge ‘need,’ is by calculating how much was spent in the previous quarter. The basic governmental mentality is, “we have to spend it or we wont get as much next year.” Frugality is therefore punished, causing government agencies to be not only wasteful, but to hold wastefulness as a virtue.
With this in mind, I would like everyone to think about the goal of the Dept of Education. Is it really any surprise that since we have created the Federal Dept. of Education, although we spend more and more money on education each year, we still get less than successful results? Although this is painfully obvious, the answer we are given by virtually every “new” politician (usually regardless of Party) is to spend more money and to transfer more control to the same govt. bureaucrats who are likely the cause of the problem in the first place.
With this also in mind, is it any wonder that since the “war on poverty” started in the 60s, poverty has actually gone up? The local philanthroy prior to this time had a way of weeding out the chronic cases and requiring them to make progress toward self sufficiency, while still caring for those who (through some disability or misfortune) had a real continuing need… but the Federal apparatus has no way of seeing that. Even if they did see that, there is no incentive to actually prevent poverty. Quite the opposite, they are ‘incentivised’ to create more of it… because the more poverty the more the budget for the agency that was designed to combat it.
Is it any wonder that since the Federal “war on drugs” started in the 1970s, there is more drug-related violence? The DEA has no incentive to stop drug use because without it all of the employees of that department would lose their jobs. They must show us an ever-bleaker picture of this war, as a way of goading us into surrendering more of our liberties (and of course our treasure).
Indeed, you could look at just about any Federal agency and come to the same conclusion. The reason I specify the Federal agencies is because at the very local level, where it is visible to both the governed and the Governor, and where the ability to vote someone out is very real, a sort of accountability can be had. Your local Sheriff, for instance, is usually an effective level of government since he is an elected, as well as active member of the community. The Federal Govt., however, has only 7 members (out of over 500, total) who answer to us. The people who sit in D.C. are largely attempting to rule over 300 million people from a city that is as much as 3000 miles away from the population they rule. The “incentives” they put into place for the people who will rule over us virtually ensure failure, while the current gang keeps reaching for even more authority. It’s time for Oregon to tell them NO! We will not be ruled by a corrupt gang of thugs 3000 miles away. Not now, and not ever! You, D.C., must live within the powers granted to you within the Constitution, and not one single inch further. As Thomas Jefferson said;
“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That “all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.” To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”
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