Monday, September 04, 2006

Life Without Government Equals Chaos. Hardly!

We tend to assume that without an interventionist government – a government that extends beyond the enumerated powers in the Constitution - life would resolve into chaos. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In the nineteenth century, French economist Frédéric Bastiat remarked on the wonder of that phenomenon by exclaiming, "Paris gets fed!" The same can be said of New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, etc. It's doesn't take the intervention of a governmental planning board to ensure adequate food for all of us. Entrepreneurs seeking profit make certain that eggs and milk are readily available for tomorrow's breakfast.

Consider the alternative: In the late 1970's and early 1980's I spent three weeks in the then-socialist countries of Yugoslavia and East Germany. If it wasn't for the illegal food market there would have been nothing to eat other than cookies, Vodka, and stale bread. Keep in mind that the brightest minds planned these economies. Not much to be said for central planning.

But we tend to forget these real-world examples of government planning. Maybe we assume that our bureaucrats are more omniscient and brighter than those of Yugoslavia and East Germany. Ludwig von Mises of the Austrian School of Economics proved over 80 years ago that all attempts at central planning lead to chaos. He was correct then, and he is still correct today.

Yet we still believe in governmental solutions. As I have previously written, if government is omniscient, I am omniscient. And even I don’t believe that to be true. Parents allow school officials, such as me, to make important decisions for their children because there exists the belief that school officials somehow are unbiased and altruistic, and better at guiding children than their own parents. While it is certainly true that most school employees like working with students, they can’t possible have a child’s best interests in mind. That is the realm of parents only.

School officials have jobs, careers and families of their own. They also have biases and beliefs that greatly differ from individual parents. There is nothing wrong with differing views, but parents should not simply hand over their children to the schools and assume the best. We bristle at the idea of our friends, neighbors and family members guiding our parental decisions, yet we readily give school officials, who are nothing more than friends, neighbors and family members, the power to make those very same decisions. The robe of omniscience does not come with school employment or board election. In fact, there is nothing unique and special about school employment.

Remember, it's the entrepreneur who will truck the eggs and milk today so that you can eat tomorrow.

Jim Fedako

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