Theory says that big government will do what we citizens can’t do. Theory says that big government will efficiently take care of the needy. That idea sells well to high school civics students. Reality says Theory is wrong. Reality shows that big government wants to get into your bedroom, and it has.
In practice, people follow their own self-interest. That is true for government workers, for private contractors and for politicians. I have not found a better example than the recent multi-million-dollar settlement against the Baltimore Maryland Housing Commission. City maintenance workers demanded sex from the occupants of city housing. Tenants who were not forthcoming with their favors were left in cold, moldy apartments with unsafe wiring.
The larger question is why. Sure, men and women in positions of power want sex. Yet, my boss doesn’t treat me the way these housing occupants were treated. Lots of people live in apartments and have to ask their landlord to make repairs. So why were these particular housing occupants abused by these particular maintenance workers? The answer is choice and markets.
The theory of big government delivering services to the needy is that the needy not only lack money, but the needy also lack brains. The government is set up to serve stupid people who are too dumb to help themselves. Government says poor people are so dumb that they don’t know what they need.. but Big Government does.
Big government offers poor people food rather than money for food. Big government offers poor people housing rather than money to buy housing. Big government offers maintenance services rather than money for repairs. That is why city maintenance workers could demand sex from the occupants before the city workers would repair their government furnished apartments. The occupants were held hostage. This system doesn’t serve the poor, but it serves politicians very well.
— Selling services rather than offering money makes government as large as possible. That is a feature, not a fault. That maximizes the power held by bureaucrats and politicians.
— Government services are expensive since they are provided by expensive city workers rather than from a competitive market. The high cost of city workers guarantees that government workers will continue to make large political donations to big-government politicians.
— Providing services means there is no sense of ownership by the occupants. They don’t spend their money on repairs so they have no incentive to take care of the building.
— Providing services means there is nowhere for the housing occupants to turn when their toilet overflows, the faucet leaks, and the lights flicker. That is why the maintenance workers could demand a payment of sex or drugs before they provided repairs.
Neither the market-based system nor the government-kickback system is perfect. Some poor people would trade money for drugs. People trade housing and food stamps for drugs today. That argues for low cost drug treatment. That argues for mandatory drug testing to receive public assistance. It does not argue for a large corrupt bureaucracy that provides crappy concrete boxes for the poor.
People are imperfect, including politicians. People are corruptible, especially
politicians. Big Government maximizes the opportunities for political corruption. Free markets are not perfect either, but they let us chose between competing suppliers. Markets give us choices. The housing occupants are not the only ones getting screwed.
We ignore problems that only affect the poor. The problems this incident reveals could happen to anyone. I’ve seen businessmen treated the same way these housing occupants were treated. Our corrupt system harms everyone. We should demand better for the poor, and for us all.
Big Government is a disease masquerading as a cure.
Image: Screen Shot: http://news.yahoo.com/video/lawsuit-seeks-70m-city-housing-211710216.html