Who Will Run The Government Programs?

Everybody has got some idea for a government program. I remember once, a long time ago, chatting with my brother about a domestic peace corps. We both thought it was a phenomenal idea. They could fix up the roads, help the poor, paint houses in bad neighborhoods, distribute medicine. At the time neither of us realized that there was already a domestic peace corps in existence, AmeriCorps.

Later on that day, I went to a party and I was really talking up this domestic peace corps idea. Everybody liked it. Of course, the other attendees had their own pet programs that they’d thought up. One wanted to send explorer vehicles into the depth’s of the universe. Another thought that we could have federal after school programs for children so that poor parents could work double shifts. There were lots of calls for free healthcare and free college. One guy was for compulsory ROTC for all teenage males.

They seemed like good ideas to me. But let me tell you something, ideas are a dime a dozen. I could give you twenty interesting ideas right now. Here’s one: a machine the converts air into food. Here’s another one: a program that teaches you how to play the piano in five minutes.

Coming up with ideas is quite easy. Making promises is also very simple. All you have to do is open your mouth and the words come out. Reader, if you leave a comment on this blog I’ll come to your town and paint your house, I promise. You see how easy that was?

The hard part comes when ideas and promises run up against reality. Taking an idea and turning it into a real, live, functioning thing is hard. Coming through on a promise that requires sacrifice and effort is also challenging. Not everybody has what it takes to achieve these tasks. We’ve all been let down by people who over promise. We’ve all had ideas that never ended up amounting to a hill of beans.

There are also ideas that do get carried out and prove to be really bad ideas. Say that some people send an explorer into space. They spend millions of dollars on the contraption and as soon it leaves the earth’s atmosphere, it blows up. Bad idea.

To use just one of many, many real world examples, let’s take a look at AmeriCorps. It seemed like such a good idea to me an my brother at the time. How did it actually turn out?

Taken from a James Bovard article, here are some of the great things that AmeriCorps volunteers have actually accomplished. Keep in mind that the average AmeriCorps volunteer receives roughly $15,000 per year in pay and benefits; and bureaucrats are necessary to administer the paperwork.

*”AmeriCorps members helped run a program in Buffalo that gave children $5 for each toy gun they brought in, as well as a certificate praising their decision not to play with these trinkets.”

*”In San Diego, AmeriCorps members busied themselves collecting used bras and panties for a homeless shelter.”

*” In Los Angeles, they foisted unreliable ultra-low-flush toilets on poor people.”

*”In San Francisco, AmeriCorps members busy themselves mediating elementary school playground disputes.”

*” In Springfield, Illinois, they donned puppets to school 3-year-olds at the Little Angels Child Care Center about the benefits of smoke detectors.”

Further, the AmeriCorps program was caught up in a scandal almost from the very beginning.

Bovard writes,

“The program was tainted from the get-go. In its early years, members were routinely used as backdrops for photo opportunities when President Clinton arrived on tarmacs around the nation. And AmeriCorps “volunteers” were repeatedly involved in political advocacy and petitioning. The program gave over $1 million to ACORN.”

See the full article here, http://jimbovard.com/blog/2009/03/30/obamas-mandatory-service-madness-americorps/.

It turns out that our wonderful idea was, in reality, quite lame.

In a world of scarcity, in which there is a limited quantity of people capable of a carrying out only a limited range of tasks, we must be careful not to undertake wasteful projects. It is of the utmost importance for the well being of us on here on planet earth to scrutinize carefully the ideas and plans that we attempt to realize.

Unfortunately, government has a tendency to go after ideas and projects that will turn out terribly.

To get elected politicians promise all kinds of benefits without any idea about how the benefits will actually be provided. It’s easy to say that you’ll provide healthcare for everybody, but actually doing it is unimaginably complicated.

Where will the healthcare actually come from? Doctors? Which Doctors? How much will the government pay them? Who will do the paperwork? Where will the hospitals be?

These are questions that need to be answered if the promise is to be fulfilled. The politician, however, doesn’t worry his precious little mind about them. He writes a law that says “There will be healthcare for all.” The enforcement of the law gets delegated to a committee. The committee delegates the problem to career bureaucrats who may or may not know anything about providing healthcare.

Nothing about this scenario inspires confidence that the idea will be successfully realized.

The other problem is that the government gets to spend other people’s money. Almost any idea sounds good when other people are paying for it. If you have a rich friend who wants to rent a yacht or take a weekend trip to the south of France, and he’s paying, well that sounds like mighty fine idea indeed. When the company is picking up the bill its surf and turf all the way. Things are a bit different with our own money.

I encourage anybody and everybody to generate all of the wonderful ideas that they can. Make list after list of them. Share the ideas with your friends. If the ideas are really good, maybe somebody will want to fund some of them.

But please, please, please, cease with the ideas that government has to carry out. The next time you think of something that the government should do, ask yourself the following three questions: Would I pay for this myself? If so, why don’t I? Who are the actual living, breathing people that will being doing this for me?


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