Priorities of Government Bureaucrats

On 11/21/2011, in Economics, by Jordan Wilson
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If a private business was managed like most countries, it would quickly go bankrupt.

The bureaucrats running government would soon destroy most companies. Their actions always seem to make government less effective and less efficient.

In business, the focus for well run companies is on the key issues. 

Creating new products, finding new markets and customers, keeping costs down, etc. The main driver is to create a growing, sustainable net earnings stream that provides a reasonable return for shareholders.

As an aside, to any socially conscious, environmental, etc. readers, please note that I use the words “growing” and “sustainable”. In my view, companies that do not address concerns of a significant portion of society will ultimately suffer. For example, if a company dumps toxic waste in a pristine lake, the fines and negative publicity will hurt the company in the long run to a greater extent than the savings. So there are incentives for profit seekers to properly manage their business.

But in government, the need to focus on effectively and efficiently managing its business is missing. Rather, the focus is on growing your own organization through the creation and imposition of additional rules and the bureaucratic infrastructure to support it.

In Europe, the sole priority should be to contain the financial crisis. All actions should focus on this issue. But the solutions are not easy. To implement, there will be significant pain for voters in many countries. And, for a politician or bureaucrat, much better to put off angering people that vote. Even if that means increased suffering down the road (when the politician and bureaucrat have retired and are enjoying their substantive pensions).

Instead, it is preferable to key on the minutiae. Hopefully things that will create more work and control for government.

So in the European Union (E.U.), a priority this week is whether water can prevent dehydration.

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.

Well, as long as there was a three year investigation, I guess I have to agree.

Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large. The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true. If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”

Lest you think this is an isolated incident, it is not. There are many similar stories from Brussels.

A few of my favourites are the banning of curved bananas and cucumbers (now overturned), the destruction of too small fruit, and severe restrictions on the use of balloons, whistle blowers, and teddy bears for children.

If I was running the E.U. and staff came up with these ideas, they would be packing their bags. Instead they get rewarded. And Europe continues on its path to ruin.

And for those that think this unique to Europe, think again.

The United States (U.S.) exceeded USD 15 trillion in debt this week. But, as of November 20, 2011, the Senate has not passed a budget in over 900 days. Priorities must come before budgets and debt attention.

Recent Senate priorities such as resolutions to collect toys during the holiday seasonhonouring the life of Evelyn H. Lauder, and a “bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide recruitment and retention incentives for volunteer emergency service workers”. And in Congress, we have priorities including Christmas tree promotions, horse slaughtering, reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the U.S., and commemorative coins for baseball.

I am certain all these will do wonders at stimulating the U.S. economy and reducing the debt.

Every day we read about bureaucratic decision makers and crazy priorities. Actions that make governments even less efficient and create even more economic problems for their population.

It is really hard not to think we are doomed.

Or maybe government does know what it is doing and I am the crazy one.

Well, off for  a nice 10 mile hike in the desert mountains. Temperature will be in the high 80s F (low 30s C) and sunny. Should be strenuous. But at least I no longer need to carry the 4 liters of water that I usually take with me. That will lighten the load.

Assuming the E.U. is correct, look for more writing later this week. If the E.U. is wrong, look for the vultures circling my dried out corpse.

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