American Elephants

The Federal Government Is Not Your Friend, And They Have Interests of Their Own by The Elephant's Child

Most Americans believe that the federal government does a poor job and wastes most of the taxpayers’ hard earned money. Waste, fraud and abuse are rampant. We hear stories of employees spending their days watching porn. Agencies spend millions on beautifying their offices, and rush to spend every last cent of their budget so they can pretend they need more for the next year. There are some things that can only be done by a federal government, but most things are far better done by the private sector.

There are specific reasons why this is so. For a business to exist, it must turn a profit. If there is no reward for operating a business, it will cease to exist. Businesses do not operate to provide jobs or to do good works. They operate to make a profit. It is astonishing how many people do not understand this. Competition forces business to be efficient, to offer good products that people want, to deliver on time, make products that last, or offer services that do what they are supposed to do. Leftists are always sure that competition is bad, and what is needed are lots of rules and regulations, which only serve to make a mess of the situation.

Government regulators seldom have a good understanding of how a business works, and the regulations they devise do more harm than good. For example: Regulators, concerned about fat people, decide that all restaurants must display the caloric content of all the ingredients in their food. For pizza places the number of ingredients is enormous, the signage, often on a large lighted panel over the counter doesn’t have much room, customers are aware that some pizzas are high calorie and fattening. They don’t care—they want pizza. The cost to restaurants with low profit margins is enormous in changing all their signage. The result of the regulation is unmeasurable, and probably didn’t change anyone’s dinner preferences.

The free market does an excellent job in controlling business, without interference from bureaucratic busybodies. Very few members of Congress have much experience in running a business, and few of Washington bureaucrats do either. The marketplace offers all sorts of information and lessons, often information that you cannot obtain elsewhere. Incentives matter. The incentives that drive government workers and their managers are not the same as those faced by the businesses to be regulated, and are often counter to the public interest in any case.

Here’s an excellent article that surveys the government bureaucracy and how we should or should not respond. And a valuable lesson in why government does such a poor job of the tasks that are assigned to them. It’s a guide worth keeping with lots of resources. But then you don’t know until the government gets you on their “to do” list just what you’re in for, and where to go for help.

2 Comments so far
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It is a truism that business only makes a profit by being a monopoly. That monopoly may be as simple as being the only ice-cream van at the beach, or it may be as complex as a company like Micro$oft buying up or destroying all competition and stagnating the PC market, and forcing the consumer to buy a useless bug-ridden expensive piece of software because micro$oft got rid of the competition.

Part of the role of government is to stop anti-competitive forces in the marketplace creating monopolies, another is to create a “market” where none exists – such as clearing up pollution from a failed company (e.g. clearing up all the rusting windmills when that market collapses).

And of course, government are just as capable of behaving in the same way as companies like Micro$oft – as we saw in the climate – destroying alternative viewpoints, using their monopoly power to empower and enrich themselves.

So, neither commerce nor the public sector is some paradigm of virtue and we must be eternally vigilant of both the private and public sector.

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Comment by Scottish Sceptic

Partly right. Companies would like to have a monopoly, but seldom achieve that for more than a short time. Monopolies get lazy or greedy and start charging too much for their product or service. That inspires others to enter the competition by capitalizing on the flaws of the monopolist, and they may take a good chunk of the monopolist’s business. These are market forces operating naturally in a free market. Governments don’t do any better with breaking up monopolies than they do with regulating business.We just had 8 years of a climate true believer in the presidency who backed all sorts of nonsense while running up the national debt to reprehensible numbers. There’s much that remains to be learned about Donald Trump, but he has not only appointed a sterling cabinet, but is cutting back sharply on all the green excess, particularly on the EPA, and he has had excellent advice there.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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