DownsizeDC.org
December 26, 2006
Failure in government gets rewarded
By Jim Babka
Downsize DC co-founder Harry Browne used to say, "Ladies and gentlemen . . . You know it. And I know it. Government doesn't work."

In some ways, I was prone to think he overstated his point. But then, I look at the news from a single week. Evidence also abounds for the DC Downsizer Principle, "Big Government harms you, hurts your family, injures your neighbor, damages your industry, and destroys your community -- it even kills innocent people."

Yes, Big Government fails, just like Harry Browne said. But it's actually much worse than that. Big Government is, all-too-often, the very cause of the pain we're experiencing -- the very pains from which politicians are promising to rescue us. Big Government permeates nearly every area of our lives, so, like a bad crime scene, point to a societal problem and you'll frequently find one or more Big Government program's fingerprints all over it.

And here's the worst part: Big Government grows bigger as a result of its own failures.

In the private sector, failure to serve your market receives the just compensation of going out of business. Try naming the last five government programs that were closed (those merged with some other agency don't count). Failure is the key to success in the world of Big Government.

A review of some of the week's news illustrates the point that Big Government failure is a thriving and growing business.

War on Drugs Creates Unintentional Boom

The Marijuana Policy Project and the economics blog Marginal Revolution are both reporting that a public policy analyst, relying entirely on government statistics, can demonstrate that marijuana is our nations's largest cash crop -- bigger than corn and soybeans.

How is this possible? Isn't there a War on Drugs?

Of course there is. And that explains why it's so profitable.

Freshmen in business school know that higher risk means higher potential reward. Black markets create insane profits. And, so long as you don't get caught, you won't have to pay taxes, fill out complicated forms, deal with OSHA inspectors, obtain permits, and worry about other employment laws.

The government prisons contain more than 800,000 non-violent drug offenders -- including folks merely using marijuana for serious medical conditions. The cost of the War on Drugs is enormous. This war has been used to trash the Bill of Rights, illegally take people's stuff, and kill innocent people in no-knock raids.

Yet marijuana is the largest cash crop in America.

If we ever fall behind our international competitors in producing corn and beans, now we know how to turn up the production.

War on Illegal Immigration Destroys Privacy

Big Government issues a plan to fight illegal immigration. The keystone? The Real ID Act. Here's a plan to make us receive Big Government's "mark" if we want to engage in commerce: get a job, cash a check, open an account, buy cigarettes, alcohol, or a gun. We must also have the Federal Leviathan's mark if we want to board a train, a plane, or drive an automobile. Without "your papers" you will essentially be a stranded, non-person, unable to travel from point A to point B.

Oh, and talk about an invasion of privacy and identity theft . . .  These Real ID cards will be used to track your every moment with Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID). These RFID chips are being inserted in everything. And now we learn that a British man was able to clone an RFID signal from an e-Passport in just five minutes (he thought it would take him an hour).

Of course, the failure of this program only means more money will be needed. Additional privacy measures must be implemented on top of this terrible program. But no thought is given to the obvious: admitting defeat and closing down the Real ID Act.

Big Government must have many fingers at the ends of many arms to plug the abundance of holes it finds in the dikes it builds.

Well, I have but one finger for Big Government. I wish they'd kill their Real ID plan and leave me alone.

War on Corruption Destroys Democracy

Professor Steven Bainbridge reports on an admission by the Federal Election Commission that the "road to the White House" is now going to cost $500 million -- per major party! That's right, a billion dollars will be spent on the Republican and Democratic campaigns.

How is this possible? I thought John McCain solved this problem for us! I sat in the Supreme Court and listened as McCain-Feingold was reviewed and heard McCain's defenders whine about how money was corrupting.

That line was a bull then -- and it still is. Money is required for speech. The incumbents know that it costs money to buy advertising time. And they know that advertising is required to get the media to take you seriously. And they know that the more the challenger spends the more the incumbent has to spend to protect his seat. And the more incumbent spends the more likely the incumbent is to lose.

The incumbent's reform plans, while diabolical, are genius. They portray themselves as caped crusaders out to protect us from corruption. And with the aid of the media, the public laps it up.

Yet we know, from 30 years of experience, that reforms on money in politics haven't worked. We have more reform than ever, and yet, corruption was the second major issue in this election. Amongst other things, we had two Congressmen plead guilty to selling votes and two others who, as I write this, are going through the criminal justice process. So that failed.

But the failure is even more profound. Dark horse candidates are dropping out of the race for President in droves and the election is still nearly two years away! They keep muttering things about "David and Goliath."

Still standing is a Goliath named John McCain saying, "Campaign finance reform has been vetty, vetty gewd to me."

So what can we expect next? Well, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already told the press that the very first thing on the new Congressional agenda will be lobbying reform. Yes, they've shut down your choice at the ballot box. Now, they're going to go after favorite grassroots groups. Congress will start with the smaller, non-membership groups like DownsizeDC.org. They'll burden them with expensive compliance requirements and they'll force them to disclose their plans for future initiatives. I wish I could play competitive poker that way. 

"But don't worry," the incumbents say, "This time the program will actually do what we promise. And if not, we'll pass another reform."

Even Failure in Iraq Is Rewarded With Increases

We've already seen in the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration, and the war on corruption that when a government program fails to live up to its promise -- and virtually all do -- that, paradoxically, the program expands.

Last Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that George W. Bush admitted, for the very first time and after many adamant proclamations to the contrary, that we're "not winning" in Iraq. Perhaps he's ready to "cut and run?"

Not quite.

The Democratic Party made big gains in the recent elections. I think it's safe to say they didn't do it because of their policy proposals. Nor was it because of public love and appreciation. They defeated a President who had lied us into a war that was now going quite badly. They defeated a party bogged down by scandal.

They won because they weren't Republicans!

They won because they offered the American people the only hope possible to end the War in Iraq.

And how are they responding? By applauding the President as he begins his campaign for more troops in Iraq.

In 2004, John Kerry campaigned for President. He did such a poor job of communicating his positions that it was unclear to most Americans that his proposal on Iraq was to send more troops. He lost to the guy who said that more troops weren't necessary and that guy continued to say so for two more years. Now, when it's clear this government program is failing, the Washington Post is reporting that the guy who beat Kerry is floating trial balloons all over the place for Kerry's proposal.

Randolph Bourne, an opponent of World War I, wrote, "War is the health of the State." Bourne was on to something: War is a metaphor for every Big Government program.

So given the pattern, does it really surprise you that our fearless leaders are proposing more troops?

We shouldn't be the least bit surprised. Failure in government is routinely rewarded with more government.

Unintended Consequences

When bad things happen, when the programs don't work (FEMA rescue comes to mind as I write this sentence), we're told about "unintended consequences" -- like no one saw this coming.

Well, Big Government has so many unintended consequences that those consequences are, well, predictable.

Big Government hurts. Not content to inflict mild amounts of pain on its victims, Big Government expands. That's why we must Downsize DC. We must break the cycle.

That's why we show up to work here every day. 

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Thank you for your support,

Jim Babka
President
Downsize DC Foundation
& DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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