Archive for February 15th, 2012

While I’m obviously not a fan of big government, I have mixed feelings about why the public sector is so blindly wasteful.

Is it because politicians and bureaucrats are well-intentioned morons who accidentally do damage (as illustrated by this cartoon), or is it that they are venal vultures looking to grab as much loot as possible before the house of cards comes crashing down (powerfully demonstrated by this example)?

The answer is probably a combination, so the real challenge is figuring out whether specific examples of government stupidity fall into one category or another.

Let’s look at three recent examples.

First, we have a story from the surveillance state known as the United Kingdom.

On a cold, dark night on the mean streets of the UK, an undercover police officer was radioed and informed that a potential suspect was close by. Keen to do the right thing, he set off in hot pursuit. Twenty fraught minutes later, he learned he’d been chasing… himself. The CCTV operator reported to police that someone was ‘acting suspiciously’, according to The Telegraph. Unfortunately, the officer who decided to follow up on the report was actually the shadowy figure in question. …The poor guy doing the chasing reassured the CCTV operator that he was “hot on the heels” of the suspect. Uh, at least until the police officer’s boss turned up in the CCTV control room and recognized him.

This definitely falls into the incompetence and stupidity category. Why didn’t the camera operator figure our that there was only one person on the screen. Then again, I once spent a minute or so looking in my bedroom for a cell phone that I was holding in my left hand, so I don’t want to be overly judgmental.

So let’s look at another case of government in action. Indeed, this could become the start of a new TV program: The Fart Police.

Harold Wayne Hadley, Jr., 19, was arrested at a Mississippi junior college after he allegedly wrote a note on a piece of toilet paper on Tuesday, containing the word ‘bomb,’ according to Weirdnews.net. The note prompted 11 emergency agencies to respond to the school, but there was no bomb. Hadley and his family contend that he was only explaining the joy of flatulating in the library. “He was in the restroom doodling on some toilet paper … we are from the country, and he calls passing gas, bombs,” said Hadley’s aunt, who wouldn’t give her name to WDAM. “[He] put ‘I passed a bomb in the library,’ talking about passing gas, and somebody came in and found it, gave it to a teacher that recognized his hand writing and it blew all out of proportion.” …Hadley was arrested and held on $20,000 bail. If convicted of threatening to blow up the school, he faces 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine,according to WAPT.

Part of me wants to forgive this example of government excess. After all, we live in a post-Columbine world and I suppose schools have to plan for the worst in case they have unstable Anthony-Weiner-type students.

But then I notice two things in the story that set off alarm bells, beginning with the fact that 11 government agencies responded. If that doesn’t tell you right away that we have too many government bureaucracies and too many bureaucrats with nothing to do, then you must be in a coma.

The other thing I noticed is that a teacher recognized the student’s handwriting. So if that was true, why didn’t someone contact the student before going nuclear on the situation?

Last but not least, let’s look at an example of government misbehavior that defies description.

[A] West Hoke Elementary School student was in her More at Four classroom when a state agent who was inspecting lunch boxes decided that her packed lunch — which consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice and potato chips — “did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines,” the Journal reports. The decision was made under consideration of a regulation put in place by the the Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs to meet USDA guidelines. “When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones,” the Journal reports. The student’s mother told the Journal she received a note from the school about the incident and was charged $1.25 for the cafeteria tray, from which her daughter only ate three chicken nuggets. …The mother, who was not identified in the report, expressed concern about school officials telling her daughter that she wasn’t “packing her lunch box properly.”

This is downright horrifying, perhaps even more disgusting than any of these stories of government malfeasance and idiocy. Several questions come to mind.

  • Is the bureaucracy so bloated that we have food police in schools?
  • Why is the Department of Agriculture preparing food guidelines?
  • Why is there a Division of Child Development and Early Education
  • More important, why is there a Department of Health and Human Services?
  • When did the nanny state get the power to overrule parents on what kids eat for lunch?
  • And why are pencil-neck bureaucrats in charge of lunch box packing etiquette?

I rarely comment about religion on this blog, but reading this story almost makes me hope there’s no such thing as Heaven. That’s because I would hate to think our Founding Fathers are looking down from above and seeing what has happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

P.S. I’ll re-ask the question I posed last year: Why should we ever agree to more taxes when politicians and bureaucrats do such a rotten job with the money we’re already giving them?

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Readers seem to really enjoy the political humor on this site, much of which mocks big government and statist politicians.

But the jokes and cartoons mocking libertarians also get good reviews, probably because advocates of small government have better senses of humor and are less insecure (how’s that for self-serving analysis?).

We started this series with a video portraying Somalia as a libertarian paradise.

Then we had two cartoons, one on libertarian ice fishing and the other showing libertarian lifeguards.

I thought we then hit a high point with the image showing 24 types of libertarians.

But this new cartoon, which I first saw on the What We Think and Why blog, may be even better.

As I’ve said before, effective humor takes a bit of truth and turns it into caricature, and these images strike home.

When I give speeches in front of Republican audiences, they seem to think that libertarianism is all about sex and drugs. I try to put their minds at rest by pointing out that I strike out with dismaying frequency on the former and have never tried the latter, but I’m not sure that works.

When I talk to left wingers, they probably don’t think I’m wealthy (I should be so lucky), but they definitely think that I represent the interests of the rich. I try to explain that big government is all about an elite class figuring out ways to rape and pillage ordinary people, but I wonder whether that message sinks in.

When I talk to the media, it’s obvious that most of them can’t distinguish between Ron Paul, the Libertarian Party, and the libertarian philosophy, so that part is exactly right.

When I’m hanging out with non-political friends, they probably don’t think I’m crazy, per se, but they definitely think I’m engaged in a pointless and futile effort.

When I analyze myself, I like to think of myself as a freedom fighter. But our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. What about me? Well, my life’s not at risk and I have no fortune to lose, but I do sometimes have to travel to places where there isn’t a convenient McDonald’s. Not exactly the same level of sacrifice. On the other hand, I think I can safely claim to have never sold out, so at least I have honor.

But the final image really does sum up my life. Day after day, I sit in front of a computer and it seems all I do is read and write about never-ending examples of brain-dead government stupidity.  And if you don’t believe me, look at these examples.

That, my friends, is the real challenge of being a libertarian.

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