These two stories are completely unrelated, but they both struck me as examples of why governments have a well-deserved reputation for squandering money and making life more difficult for ordinary people.
And even though the stories are radically different, they give us a good opportunity to ask whether government is more stupid and incompetent in Europe or the United States.
Our European entry in the contest is from Germany, where the government apparently has lost blueprints for its new spy headquarters. Here are some excerpts from a BBC report, though I can’t help thinking it should be in the Onion.
Germany is investigating reports that the blueprints for the future headquarters of its BND intelligence agency have gone missing. If the report in Focus magazine is confirmed, it could pose a serious security risk – and would be a huge embarrassment for the spy agency. The new 1.6bn euro (£1.4bn; $2.3bn) agency headquarters are currently under construction in Berlin. …They purportedly show extremely sensitive aspects of the building’s construction, such as the alarm system, anti-terror installations, emergency exits, cable routes and sewers.
By the way, I’m also shocked by the $2.3 billion price tag for the building. But cost overruns and waste are so routine that only fiscal policy wonks like me seem to get upset about such things.
The American entry is from (I’m embarrassed to admit) Georgia, where the Keystone Cops in Midway have stopped a major crime wave of…(get ready to be shocked)…unregulated lemonade! Here’s part of the AP report.
Police in Georgia have shut down a lemonade stand run by three girls trying to save up for a trip to a water park, saying they didn’t have a business license or the required permits. Midway Police Chief Kelly Morningstar says police also didn’t know how the lemonade was made, who made it or what was in it. The girls had been operating for one day when Morningstar and another officer cruised by. The girls needed a business license, peddler’s permit and food permit to operate, even on residential property. The permits cost $50 a day or $180 per year.
Other local governments have been guilty of this type of petty harassment, but what’s remarkable about the Midway story is that the Barney-Fife-wannabee police chief shut down the lemonade stand, in part, because the girls “didn’t know how the lemonade was made.”
So I guess this means that the kids not only should have coughed up big bucks for a permit, but they also should have posted the recipe for some regulator to approve?
I weep for my country.