This short piece at the website of the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) is a sharp, well focused destruction of federal welfare policy these past fifty-five years. It’s not the first, of course; many have remarked on the failure of federal welfarism in much the same fashion. Yet it serves as a reminder of something anyone with three functioning brain cells “should” be aware of:
I know of one other case in which the vendor of a poison promotes the poison as its own antidote: narcotic drugs. You’ve come off your heroin high and now you’re feeling as if the world is too much for you? You couldn’t take an unassisted breath, much less a step on your own? I know what will make those blues go away: Have a little more heroin!
The pusher, of course, has a financial incentive for addicting you. Your reason for allowing yourself to be addicted is of no moment. But what’s the federal government’s incentive for fastening the welfare monkey onto the back of millions of “beneficiaries” – a demographic that has refused to get any smaller as a percentage of the U.S. population despite the expenditure of $23 trillion over 55 years on “government assistance programs:”
James R. Harrigan tells us bluntly:
Politicians aren’t all that concerned with solving problems efficiently. They seem always to prefer expanding the power they wield, and the government programs they create expand their ability to micromanage our lives.
Politicians make grandiose claims about their various and sundry programs because those claims resonate with the people who receive government largesse. Not surprisingly, those claims resonate even more with the entrenched, ever-growing federal bureaucracy. But in the end, people receive pennies on the dollar compared to what they could have received had we decided just to write a check.
In the end, our government has become a tool that politicians use to turn national problems into political power, so it should come as no surprise that they are not interested in solving problems at all.
Charles Peters, in his book How Washington Really Works, elaborates on this dynamic:
The Library of Congress recently studied federal agencies’ compliance with the Sunshine Act of 1976, which was supposed to open government to the public. The study found that of a group of 1,003 government meetings listed in the Federal Register, 627 were either partially or completely closed to the public. One closed meeting was held by the Federal Reserve Board to consider the design of its furniture; it was closed on the grounds that “matters of a sensitive financial nature were being considered by the Board.”
The military is a master of this kind of subversion. When the navy was ordered to conserve fuel during the energy crisis of the early seventies, it reported that it had reduced its ships sailing time by 20 percent. What it actually did was redefine sailing time to exclude a ship’s journey from the port to the fleet at sea.
What is this if not make-believe? Laws are passed, orders are given, compliance seems to occur, but nothing changes. Bureaucrats don’t like real change, only the appearance of change. That is why they are so fond of reorganization. Reorganization gives them something to do: redrawing charts, knocking down office walls–but nothing outside the agency, such as poverty or hunger or disease, is affected in the slightest. What does happen is that new jobs are created, almost always with higher grade classifications, which of course means higher salaries for the reorganizers.
The reason bureaucrats like internal reorganization better than external action is easy to understand. Suppose you work in an antipoverty agency and you do your job so well that poverty is eradicated. Or suppose you work in the Department of Energy and the energy problem disappears. What will happen to you? The bureaucrat can figure that out. If he takes real action, if he’s truly effective, he’ll be out of work–he won’t survive. If, on the other hand, his action is make-believe, poverty will not disappear, the energy problem will not be solved, and his job will be safe–he will survive. Now you understand the fundamental Washington equation:
Make-believe = Survival
A liberal might say “Well, it’s just money,” as if that money hadn’t first been taken from our pockets by a government with the power to imprison or kill us for daring to resist its expropriations. But money in the hands of the State isn’t just the ability to pay one’s worker drones:
“Money is power.” Money in your hands is power in you. In the hands of the Government, it gives the Government power OVER you. Governments never use unlimited money for good. They quickly convert it to unlimited power. And unlimited power in any Government is oppression for all. – T. Coleman Andrews
Lysander Spooner was even blunter, more than a century ago:
All political power, as it is called, rests practically upon this matter of money. Any number of scoundrels, having money enough to start with, can establish themselves as a “government;” because, with money, they can hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort more money; and also compel general obedience to their will. It is with government, as Cæsar said it was in war, that money and soldiers mutually supported each other; that with money he could hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort money. So these villains, who call themselves governments, well understand that their power rests primarily upon money. With money they can hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort money. And, when their authority is denied, the first use they always make of money, is to hire soldiers to kill or subdue all who refuse them more money.
(For anyone who wanted to know why I named my series about a colony world populated entirely by anarchists the Spooner Federation Saga.)
But I digress. The moral of the story is plain:
Which “should” have been “obvious” from the moment Rahm Emanuel said this:
You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.
Not enough of us were listening then. In consequence, for the poison that was killing us – a hypertrophied government that has achieved de facto control of every aspect of our lives – we accepted as an antidote a larger dose of the same…and the problems that we’d trusted government to solve continued to enlarge.
Are we listening now?
(See also this fine piece by our favorite Graybeard.)