Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The relentless growth of government

Government most always grows; it seldom shrinks.  Paradoxically, it grows by trying to act “more like a business.”

Unfortunately, the only part of the business model that governments tend to use is “marketing” aka “promoting the need for its products and services.”

Several examples come to mind.

Municipal Parks and Recreation Departments.  Cities often construct underutilized facilities and create underutilized programs. The National Parks and Recreation Association devotes a significant part of their resources in coaching local governments how to promote facilities and program usage -  how to grow a program, which happens to be a government, tax supported program.  The priority of park and recreation bureaucrats, just like most government program leaders, is to enhance their area of responsibility.  And the best way to do that is to market their services and increase user participation, at taxpayer expense.  Government grows.

Libraries:  Reading is next to Godliness.  Libraries are at God’s right hand.  But libraries today are not merely places to provide access to books to advance enlightenment.  They are now amusement centers that provide meeting rooms, and all manner of multi-media products and equipment including music CDs, movie DVDs, multi-media playback equipment and computers, especially internet access.  Undeniably, libraries have grown well beyond what they were 50 years ago.  Library professionals, who have grown adept at advancing their special interest, have perfected the art of community organizing to promote the use of taxpayer funds to provide entertainment services that were previously at the expense of individuals and families.  Government grows.

Housing. Everyone wants “affordable housing.”  What better way to accomplish this than through “public-private partnerships.”  The “public” part of those partnerships is typically in the form of federal grants, federal assistance programs, mortgage buy-downs, or relaxed financing qualifications – the very same that resulted in the housing bubble and bust.  Promoters of government assistance are active in every segment of the housing industry, both inside and outside of government.  While many have pure motives, many motives are also enhanced by an assured increase in the importance of their program, department, and salaries at taxpayer expense.  Government grows. 

Welfare.  Leaders of government welfare programs are the consummate “bleeding hearts.”  While their intentions are noble, their methods demand government funds and bigger and bigger budgets.  And once established, these programs are almost impossible to eliminate or reduce.  In fact, it is well known that if there is inadequate demand for a particular welfare service, agencies have been known to promote (aka “market”) their service to assure that all funds are used up – whether there was initial demand or need for that welfare service or not, so that funding levels are at least maintained if not increased in the next budget cycle.  These welfare services are much like feeding crack to newly created addicts.  Once they are relieved of the “burden” of personal responsibility for their own welfare, their increasing pool of clients come to expect and demand higher levels of government paid welfare services.  Government grows.

And so on it goes.  These and other government services are marketed by professional government bureaucrats to continually grow their clientele, departments, influence, and salaries – at taxpayer expense. 

The most insidious part of it all of this is the marketing effort that slowly, relentlessly entices more and more people to rely on each of these programs.  It happened in public education; it is true of environmentalism.  It is endemic in every government program.  Each department and program becomes entrenched, complete with their own special interest support group comprised of professional associations and client advocacy groups.  The more our population relies on these government agencies and programs, the more of their tax money is required, and the less autonomy and freedom each individual has to do what is best for themselves – just like a growing dependence on drugs.  We become more addicted to government and less and less capable of doing things for ourselves.

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