Thursday, April 01, 2010

Comment on the Belmont Club:
"The Knife's Edge"


Marty,
Govt employment really is meaningless

That strikes me as to strong a statement. There are three proximate problems with a sizable level of government employment that lead to a fourth.

1. Pricing: Government workers do create goods and services. A physician at the VA is still a doctor and a cop does perform a necessary function. The problem is that without a market pricing system the expenditures become politically determined. The result is that in the government a few Managers are generously rewarded for their modest performance with a large support base to diffuse responsibility that has not existed in the private sector for decades. Others are paid not with cash but with the currency of power. Skilled professionals tend to get under compensated and a vast army of semi-skilled clerks are paid far more than their qualifications or efforts would gain them in private industry.

2. Social: A large level of government employment becomes destructive of both the opportunities for social mobility and the law abiding nature of the community. Instead of being self reliant citizens observant of each others rights the people are transformed into subjects jealous of each others perceived privileges. The Law is transformed from a shield designed to protect each person's liberty into a weapon used to extracts benefits under the politicized pricing system described above. As with adolescents who feel driven to bind together in a gang to negotiate survival in a hostile environment people will become less tolerant and less mobile as they feel a need to identify themselves with a tribe or special interest group. Where the individual is not valued and benefits are politically assigned such groups become essential.

3. Moral: The disconnect between individual achievement or dysfunction and reward leads to an increase in pathologies. Once financial rewards are seen as arbitrarily determined then institutions that support the allocation of rewards become less respected. As the law becomes seen as just an expression of a collection of special interests people will depend on it to extract rewards but will also lose respect for the law, each other, the community and ultimately themselves. Substance abuse, promiscuity, an increase in crime and a general coarsening of life follow.

All of these combine to lead to the fourth problem.
4. Impoverishment: A diversion of resources to deal with the pathologies that the growth of government generates in itself consumes capital and weakens the economy. The growing numbers engaged in self destructive behavior also reduce the level of real measurable wealth being generated. The replacement of entrepreneurial culture with one of dependency stifles innovation and entrenches reliance on old wasteful and inefficient methods. This further reduces the ability of the nation to compete in a global market and reduces the amount of capital, or 'energy' available in the future.

To avoid this cascade into failure we do not need to declare every task performed by every government employee unnecessary. We need cops and teachers and air traffic controllers and soldiers and health inspectors. Some of those jobs, but not all of them, can be privatized to improve their pricing.

A vibrant and law abiding society creating wealth under the rule of law and welcoming innovation is a model that created an America whose strength and decency were the model for the world. New York City thrived as the product of and showcase for that America. We need to unabashedly call for the Restoration of that nation.

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Alexis,
flacks, flunkeys, fanatics, and parasites

Are they 'of counsel' at Solitary, Poor, Nasty, Brutish and Short?
Personally I rely on the old established firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe.

Your essay is a nicely turned contribution although I believe that enduring institutions can serve a purpose, as long as people are aware of the risks of complacency and corruption. To be a Conservative means to have a desire to conserve. The natural respect that accrues to institutions over time can be channeled into a desire to emulate a standard. If institutionalism becomes an end unto itself then it decays into an orthodox inertia that can be used to defend an arbitrary monarchy. The object of emulation must be a priori respectable. The temptation is to grant the aura of legitimacy to the unworthy who merely endure. As Noah Cross said in Roman Polanski's Chinatown
'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.
Society as a whole creates a government. Society as a whole is interested in the education of children. That does not mean that the government needs to be directly responsible for providing the education of each child. The government can serve the interests of society by creating conditions that allow for institutions, such as parks, zoos, libraries, museums, hospitals, religions as well as families and businesses, to thrive. Those other institutions can provide for the education and nurturing of children.

Charles,
The way for the USA to balance its books is to collapse US oil imports

Lower energy prices by any means we can accomplish, technical or tactical or strategic, them will dramatically shift power away from the Russians and the Islamists. In the short term China would experience severe shocks but they are going to anyway since the current model is unsustainable. In the longer term they may even prosper but they will be very tempted to export their domestic problems into a campaign of resource, including mineral, energy and human technical capital acquisition.

If we had only fought the Iraq War for oil we could have crashed the market price in 2003. The impact of a real program to free ourselves from dependence on the energy cartels would have interesting global effects. Sitting back to eat popcorn will probably not be an option as China readjusts, Russia implodes and the Ummah explodes when the dream of a triumphant Caliphate is yet again snatched out from under them.

RWE,
government MAY be able to attain a limited degree of competency when it does things for ITSELF

Thank you for your kind words. Good officers can make a difference in keeping a group focused on the purpose behind the tasks they are assigned as well as attempting to coordinate those units to accomplish a goal. It is at the second or macro level that government, including the military, usually fails and relies on sheer wasteful mass to substitute for efficiency. There is little evidence that large private organizations, GM, US Steel or IBM for example, have proven noticeably more nimble and efficient than the government. The secret seems to be to keep things small and increase the flow of market information to units of production or task accomplishment. Government, because of the social and political forces that I have described, is less able to do this than a private enterprise is. The problems of giantism, such as the 'agency effect' can afflict any organization.

Mark,
Brutus and Cassius sincerely believed they were fighting to preserve their Constitution and the liberties of the people, as did Charles I in England 1700 years later They were arguably wrong because they had failed to use their positions effectively before the crisis to benefit not just themselves but the community they claimed the right to exercise authority over. With privilege comes responsibility. The Optimates failed to protect the people of Rome and violated the contract between the Senate and the People, leaving the door open for Caesar and then Antony and finally Octavian to restructure the State. In England Charles broke his trust by selling the security of the nation to France and imposing upon his subjects private beliefs. In LoTR Boromir fell by confusing his private ambition with the greater good. So arguably did his father.

anton,
one aspect of the ever-growing Goverment; that of government “non-employment”

You get my point.
It is a positive feedback loop that produces a negative spiral.

L3,
We. Will. Win.

Roll up your sleeves.

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