Sometimes I swear we are living in a dystopian novel whose author is courteous enough to provide us mere extras in his story with plenty of comedic relief to make the days tolerable. The USA Today headline reads: “Obama, Biden again target government waste.” Yes. That’s in fact what it says. The administration that has given us a $3.7 trillion budget is so concerned about wasting money, you see, that its Vice President is heading up a “Campaign to Cut Waste.” The White House brags of having trimmed $33 billion of waste in the last year. That amounts to less than 1% of the budget—a budget that is, in nominal dollar terms, approximately double what it was a decade ago. Back in 2001 I remember thinking about how small our government was, and how if only we doubled its size, and were careful to cut back about a percent of that sum that happens to be “waste,” we’d be in great shape. Oh wait a second. That’s not what I thought at all.
Yet all this talk of waste misses the point. Perhaps there are better uses of our tax dollars than “waste,” but I must say, I prefer so-called waste to most of what the government spends money on. Government is destructive. Most of what it does is harmful. Being an agency of violence and the threat of violence, the institution of government runs counter to economic progress as a general principle. Even worse, its coercive grip strangles the freedom out of people as a matter of course, and, far more often than Americans seem accustomed to recognizing, it kills people.
If only the regulatory state’s budget were a matter of “waste.”
Read the rest