I realize that being a libertarian these days has become the cool way of disengaging from the political scene without looking entirely apathetic. However, after having recently spent more than a dozen hours trapped—uh, I mean bonding—with my two youngest kids in the car with nothing but the voices on the radio to distract me from their incessant whining—uh, I mean playful chatter—I continue to be drawn to the idea that most of the things the government does these days is really stupid. National defense? All for it. Basic infrastructure? Sure. Umm…coming up blank for any other major problems I trust either side of the aisle to tackle with some semblance of competence. Here are a few examples that have me ready to pack up and head for the hills:
Number One: I recently heard a report on the crisis facing many states regarding their unemployment insurance programs. With so many unemployed, the states don’t have the money to continue benefit payments and several are faced with raising taxes in order to help fund their programs. Not only are they looking to raise everyone’s taxes (a sure fire way to stimulate the economy) but it has also been suggested that businesses could be forced to contribute more to the fund. So rather than taking money that could be used to hire new employees, employers will be paying into a fund that will filter the money through goodness knows how many levels of bureaucracy until a portion of it finds its way into the hands of those who really just need a job? I certainly don’t want to straw man our complex system of economics or look upon the unemployed with a heart of stone, but I simply don’t see the government as the most efficient distributor of wealth.
Number Two: Last year, NASA was called in by the Department of Transportation to investigate the connection between unexplained accelerations among Toyota vehicles and possible flaws in their cars’ electrical systems. (Personally, I think the DOT only asked NASA to help so they could include such phrases as “rocket scientists” and “well, the experts from NASA say” in their reports but that theory has yet to be proven.) Ten months (and goodness knows how many millions of our dollars) later, nothing is wrong with the electrical systems! Well that must be such a relief to the hundreds of people who actually experienced this problem. As opposed to the millions of us who helped pay for this study. Again, I don’t want to seem cold-hearted, but this seems more like a private matter between the consumer and company. Let them work it out between themselves or, if needed, use the court system. I think there is a long laundry list of concerns that outrank this one. If Toyota has a defective product, don’t buy it and leave the rocket scientists to study, I don’t know, rocket science.
Number Three: President Obama recently announced “new investments” in a high-speed rail system. Now I love trains and am convinced that people in Europe are better informed simply because while we are all stuck in our cars inhaling carbon monoxide, they are reading books and periodicals on the train. Nevertheless, I have two objections to this idea. First, until the federal government can prove its efficiency in any areas other than collecting taxes and spending more than they collect, how about we forego flushing more money down the public toilet of Amtrak subsidies? If the country needs high-speed trains, let someone else figure out how to make it profitable. When that happens, I will gladly sit smilingly beside Joe Biden and yell “All aboard!” My other objection stems from the dysfunctional relationship government creates between its “consumers” and the “company.” An example? Libraries. Again, I love libraries but when I am annoyed by their policies or rude attitudes where do I go for recourse? There are times when I would gladly pay for additional privileges (longer hold times, extra renewals) but since the library has no profit motive, why should they care if I am satisfied or not? If video rental stores can turn a profit, why not private subscriptions to libraries?
Perhaps these are oversimplifications of highly complex issues, but if our government is supposed to be by the people and for the people, then perhaps we the people need to be out there doing for ourselves and giving the government a bit of a federal holiday.