Re: Grading the gov't (was Re: G & J, in cahoots?)

From: Jeff Bone (
Date: Tue Mar 20 2001 - 17:13:10 PST

Matt Jensen wrote:

> On Tue, 20 Mar 2001, Jeff Bone wrote:
> > USDA: doing a pretty poor job, IMO.
> Poor job at what? Farm loans, conservation incentives, price stability,
> food stamps, student lunches, food inspections, Forest Service,
> agricultural research... ? Everything?

Yup. Farmers are encouraged to not be competitive and subsidized all to hell then cut
off when they need it most; CREEP is an example of a totally horrific conservation
program that's also a farm subsidy; gov't-induced price stability is a figment of
popular imagination, stability is only truly achievable through free markets, futures
markets, and competition; food stamps are a stupid idea that only benefits the "crack
whores," i.e. encourages personal irresponsibility and indolence; ketchup is now a
fucking vegetable in student lunches and beans are considered meat; food inspections are
piss poor as it is, most of our chicken has salmonella; the forest service should be in
the Dept. of the Interior; and agricultural research can be funded just like any other
science, through corporate dollars, university discretionary research funds and
endowments, and the NSF.

> > Postal Service: can't even operate profitably. Why do we have this again, instead
> > of private concerns only?
> Several reasons. One is that we view it as a social good to enable
> low-cost mail throughout the country.

And we view it as an obvious impossibility that this can be achieved in a free market.
Bullshit. We'd have low-cost mail that would get delivered in 3 days if the Post Office
went away and FedEx was allowed to deliver directly to mailboxes. Once competition
heated up, we'd have $0.05 letter delivery. Come on --- the economics are incredibly
favorable. It can be operated as a high-margin business.

> > D. of Ag: do we really *need* this thing? Did we ever?
> Er, that's the same thing as USDA. U.S. Dept. of Ag.

Sorry, redundancy. I was working off two spotty lists. There're other redundancies in
my report card, too.

> Right, and that never happens in corporations.

Corporations generally don't allocate and manage trillion-dollar annual budgets composed
of stolen money. AFAIK.

> In some cases, such as Dept. of Veteran Affairs, they are for efficiency
> (centralization in contrast to the traditional rivalries among the
> military branches). In other cases, they are to ensure independence, such
> as keeping the EPA out of the Dept. of the Interior, whose mission
> flip-flops between conservation and development between administrations.

Oh, I'm sure there are *rational* reasons for all of these things. That doesn't mean
they're *good* reasons.

> I did laugh at your list, though :-)

Well, it was intended to generate a few yuks. The sad part is, the comedy is merely
there to disguise the tragedy...

> For a serious discussion on the
> topic, I wonder if someone can recommend a good, recent book about which
> government programs fail. Perhaps something to contrast with Kuttner's
> "Everything for Sale : The Virtues and Limits of Markets". Suggestions?

Not directly, but I can recommend a good if somewhat dated (1988) book that's somewhat on
topic. Read Charles Murray's In Pursuit of Happiness And Good Government. Here's part
of the blurb from the back of the book:

     ...Murray reconsiders old goals - wealth, safety, self-respect - in light of
     the "pursuit of happiness." He explores how social problems resistent to
     massive government programs may yield to solutions that rely more on natural
     human spontaneity. Here is a persuasive and practical argument - rich in
     fascinating case studies - for returning to Jeffersonian ideals of community,
     local government, and control of one's own destiny: a vision as applicable
     today as it was to the agricultural America of yesterday. No one who reads
     this shrewd and serious book will come away with previous perceptions unshaken.

Enjoy, report back when you've read it. :-)


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