by Adam J. Wehrley
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker
In small-town America, at sporting events, school assemblies and public meetings we pledge our allegiance to the flag, to the republic, to one nation under God. In so doing we give our oath to follow the rule of law, not to follow an individual or the shifting sands of public opinion.
Historically, we have acknowledged that the government’s power to govern is derived from the consent of those governed, that government of the people should be run by the people and exist for the people.
Why did our founders institute the rule of law, limiting their own powers at the time of their victory? They saw an inherent danger in the institutions they were forming. With government comes a sword, a sword which can be used to exact justice or create tyranny. No matter how noble and wise they believed themselves and their colleagues to be they knew that not only does power corrupt good people it attracts corruption from without.
Wielding the sword is government’s most basic function – defend the nation, restrain criminals.
Governments are the males of the lion pride who do surprisingly little of the hunting. They live off the labor of others, taking the lion’s share and leaving the leftovers for those who do the work, but when there is a threat to the pride, only they have the power to defend it. Jackals, hyenas and competing prides necessitate this role in nature.
Likewise it is the depth of naiveté to believe that the military and police roles of government can be eliminated through some sort of reliance on utopian fantasies about the eventual brotherhood of all mankind. If there shall ever be a lack of men willing to violently defend our nation, there shall be no lack of those willing to violently take it away from us.
Very simply we need government. Whether that’s a tribal chieftain, a warlord, a king or multi-trillion dollar bureaucracy, we need something. We need government to police our streets, secure our borders and put out our fires.
The government also builds roads, and ports and sewers, those burdens which cannot be shouldered by individuals. It educates our children, regulates trade and works to protect the air we breath and the water we drink. These are noble pursuits.
The question is not whether we need government, it’s how big, how complicated and how it should be run? At what point does the cost of government crush those who support it? Doomsayers, pundits and economists fear we are about to find out.
As the new year dawns with our nation possibly plummeting over “the fiscal cliff,” it seems politicians are finally realizing that the federal government cannot spend $3.7 trillion while collecting a paltry $2.4 trillion.
The fiscal cliff, however, is a symptom, its negotiations are part of a larger debate over whether more government is the solution or the problem.
Without debating the many things the government is doing inefficiently – which it should not be doing at all -there is a great deal of money wasted by multiple levels of government doing the same things, tripping and fighting over other jurisdictions and each others’ regulations. We now have a government of bureaucrats for bureaucrats by bureaucrats.
Without debating the roles of government, can we discuss the simplification of government?
Federal, state, county and municipal governments are often at odds over what should be local decisions or at least decisions made by single agencies. A prime example is the decade-long fight to improve sidewalks along Highway 30 in Rainier. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent without a shovel touching the ground.
Multiple layers of regulations frustrate school boards and teachers, which are forced to “teach to the test” to maintain federal and state funding. They spend hundreds of hours of staff time in meetings, training sessions and workshops required by various levels of ever-changing standards, compacts and mandates.
Expensive curriculums are tossed out and teachers must be retrained when these new requirements are forced upon districts which are repeatedly facing budget shortfalls and teacher layoffs. The federal government regulates every meal served in our schools’ cafeterias.
These examples are battles between government agencies – tax-supported, governmental programs victimized by tax-supported governmental agencies, wasting billions of dollars.
Regulatory redundancy costs jobs in the private sector because of the multitudes of federal, state and local governmental agencies that small businesses and large corporations alike must navigate through, and to whose rules they must adhere.
On the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and Center for Disease Control all regulate food production. State, county and municipal agencies mirror these at each level. Restaurants and farms must meet building codes and worker safety regulations and labor laws.
The question is not whether public safety is important, it’s whether a dozen agencies need to be involved in making a ham and cheese omelet. There are permits and regulations required to milk cows, slaughter pigs and break eggs. From the farm to the restaurant, agency after agency scrapes away both profits and payroll.
Multiplying this example exponentially and applying it to all businesses and industries, including health care, explains much of the high cost of government and its negative impact on the economy.
Both taxpayers and those seeking employment pay the price as taxes fund the agencies driving industries away and stifling small businesses.
Oregon’s apparent war on industry has hindered Port Westward development for almost 50 years. And this fact should burn in the minds of tradesmen and skilled laborers.
Every vote for big government politicians on either side of the aisle who court laborers then throw workers under the bus for the sake of bowing to the radical environmental lobby, is another nail in the coffin of the American dream.
The owner/operator of a small business, an employee of a billion dollar corporation, anyone in the private sector, is in danger of being the next victim of the bureaucracy.
Whether you are a potential employee of the Keystone Pipeline in the Midwest or coal export facilities in Columbia County or the barista in the coffee shop, somewhere the government, which is already siphoning your paycheck, may be threatening your job.