Sunday, January 20, 2013

No, They Can't by John Stossel

John Stossel wrote, No They Can’t: Why Government Fails -- but Individuals Succeed, to point out the many, many things government has had a hand in and ultimately made worse. It is not simply that the government SHOULDN’T be doing these things, it’s that they CAN’T do these things. Simply put, the government should not be doing what an individual can do for himself. The individual may succeed, but the government can ONLY fail.

He works through issue after issue in each chapter. He highlights the various contrasts between what “intuition” tempts us to believe and what reality has taught him. 

The first and most basic is that while we are tempted to believe that our country and economy needs a plan and the smart planners know best, hard reality teaches that no one knows enough to plan a society. 

The fact is, that our society is complicated and there is not a single person or group of people who can have enough knowledge to adequately plan out the lives of 330 MILLION people. The combined knowledge of the people is staggering, but above that, even the 330 MILLION people don’t have all knowledge. Even they don’t know what the future holds. Yet our president and congress pretend to be experts on housing, autos, energy, education, transportation, commerce, military, healthcare, banking, securities, labor, agriculture, trade, urban development, veterans, justice, treasury, and the environment. 

This is like hiring a guy to fix your car, repair your roof, be your dentist, deliver your child, provide security, landscape your house, teach you French, educate your children, cook for you, choose your clothing, and find you a spouse. No one person could or even should do all that. We would naturally find someone who is good at just one of those things and hire a different person for each chore. But the government believes it can tell you how many miles per gallon a car should get and what light bulb to use. It believes it can plan your diet and your healthcare. It believes it can predict future discoveries and get Wall Street to stop being greedy. What arrogance! What a recipe for disaster. 

The first thing the government tinkers with and therefore destroys is the economy. Only free markets with private individuals can get an economy moving. Governments tip the scales, distort the incentives, and because of its huge size, generally muck it all up. 

Government tries to “level the playing field” and make life fair. The only way to make life more fair is through totalitarianism, that is inherently unfair. Not only that, they only succeed in making everyone more poor and destroying resources. Instead of some being well-off, no one is well-off. 

It would seem to make sense that businesses need government regulation to curb their propensity for excess. Yet only consumers can provide the level of accountability that businesses need. In fact, when a corporation is protected from customers ire, think Post Office, the waste and abuse grow rather than diminish. 

Some believe that workers are treated best when in government protected unions. Yet experience has proven that a union/government partnering is worse for everyone, even the union workers. Businesses that must attract and retain employees in a free-market treat their workers better than those stuck with protected union members. In fact, because of the special protection certain people and classes enjoy, they become less employable. 

Since healthcare costs a lot, many are tempted to involve the government to contain costs. The reality is that when government becomes involved, the cost skyrockets. Innovation is stifled, resources are misallocated, accountability is lost, the public suffers. 

Life is risky. Shouldn’t government try to lower the risks we face? It can’t. In fact, the government policies can add a new level of risk. Those “gun-free” zones... risky. Rescuing people who make bad decisions again and again... risky. Protection from unproven medical devices... risky to those who desperately need the innovation. Making sure no one is offended and therefore implementing speech codes... risky to the 1st Amendment. We can and should evaluate risk for ourselves, and pay the consequences for our decisions. 

Education is too important to leave to individuals. The government surely must have a hand in teaching our children. Education is too important to leave to the government. The individual MUST be in control of the education of his children. Government- run schools combine the worst results of government-run anything. Union teacher, no financial accountability, no consumer feedback, a level “playing field” which only makes everyone equally bad off, no innovation, no risk, no positive outcome. Only concerned parents should be making education decisions for their children. 

While government has screwed up everything else it has tried to manipulate, surely government should regulate drugs... nope. While drugs kill and disable, the WAR on drugs has killed and disabled many more people. This is a classic case of the treatment being worse than the disease. 

Government must protect the environment or greedy corporations will destroy it. Once again, wrong. The best way to protect... anything... is ownership. People protect what they own. No one ends up protecting what no one owns. The free market is the best protector of the environment. Only the free market can distribute scarce resources efficiently. 

The government believes it can balance its budget with the proper mix of taxes and spending targets. Once again, wrong. Taxes can NEVER bring in enough to satisfy the voracious government. Politicians will NEVER cut spending, if it will cost them a vote. Only a radical limit to how much the government can take in and what areas of society they are allowed to tinker in will ever make a dent in our budgetary issues. 

But SURELY the government must be involved in the military affairs. Yes, this is actually one area in which the government must play a role. The idea of each individual hiring his own private military is simply unworkable. BUT, even in this area, the same principles that make government a dismal failure in every other area, make the government particularly inefficient in this area. Because the sums of money involved are huge, the potential for waste and abuse increases astronomically. Even, and especially, here, when it comes to our military, we must be vigilant in holding our government accountable for its overextension. 

In conclusion, Stossel states, “There ought NOT to be a law.” We cannot create a utopia of good and virtuous people living in comfort and ease with any law. In fact the more laws, the further society gets from that ideal. Only individuals, working in their own best interest can create a society worthy of them. The government only gets in the way. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The New Founders by Joseph F. Connor and Michael S. Duncan

The New Founders by Joseph F. Conrad and Michael S. Duncan wasn’t at all what I expected. From the description, I thought it would be a somewhat factual story about what it would look like if the Founding Fathers came back today. What would they think and say. What would they recommend.

Instead, it was a wholly fictional story about the literal George Washington showing up to a random group of modern day men who embodied the spirit and attitudes of several of the Founders. As they realize they are in the presence of the REAL George Washington, and recognize the fact that they are proxies for his original companions, they take it upon themselves to get him elected president under a pseudonym.

Unfortunately, having just gone through a real presidential election, the campaign they run is successful only because it springs from the minds of the authors. In real life, the ability of the American people to recognize greatness and desire to revert back to our founding principles is highly overrated, to say the least. 

The book was an odd science-fiction type book, stretched to incredulity. I didn’t really like it and it irritated me because I love the Founders and really wanted to like this book.