Monday, June 28, 2010

The Chronicle Gets it Right--For Now

It is rare that I find myself in agreement with a Chronicle editorial. On Sunday the paper accomplished this feat, at least in part, in chastising city council for its refusal to cut its budget:
The defense offered by some council members is that the cuts would have come out of salaries and health care benefits for staff members. And so they would have. We sympathize with the hardships these cuts would cause, limited as they are. But we're also left to wonder: How are those hardships any different than the ones borne by so many in the private sector in these days of benefit cuts, wage and salary freezes and layoffs? That's what too many of the people who pay for city government are facing.
Of course, it is easy for the paper to take the side of taxpayers on this issue.So I'm not going to give it too much credit, particularly when it evades the implications of its own statements.
From France to Washington, D.C., to Sacramento, Calif., public sector employees have for too long been insulated from the realities faced by those in the private sector. They have more vacation time, better pensions and more job security than most in the private sector. It's starting to break the bank in Europe and in parts of this country.
If this is true--which it is--then why does the paper continually advocate for expanding the number of public sector employees? If more government is breaking the bank, then why does the paper consistently call for more government? From local to federal, from land-use regulations to health care and everything in between, the paper urges more government controls and regulations.

Apparently the paper believes that such controls and regulations do not require more public sector employees to monitor and harass the citizenry. Apparently the paper believes that there are no costs associated with enforcing these edicts. Apparently the paper can't see the connection between more government control over our lives and bankruptcy. To make such a connection, one would have to look beyond concrete details and think in principles.

Economically, government is a consumer--it produces nothing of value. (It's proper purpose is the protection of our moral right to produce values.) To feed its voracious appetite, government must take money from the private sector, which reduces the money available to invest in expanded production. In addition, government controls and regulations place additional burdens on producers, forcing them to spend enormous sums to comply with the demands and dictates of politicians and bureaucrats. This too is money that cannot be invested in production.

These facts are true no matter the intention of any particular government intervention. These facts are true in Athens, Sacramento, Washington, and everywhere else on earth. These facts are true no matter how many people support a particular regulation. These facts were true in 1776, they are true today, and they will be true in 2176. These facts are true in principle--always.

The Chronicle can't have it both ways. The paper can't chastise politicians for spending money while it consistently urges them to spend money. It can't lament the cost of expanding the public sector while regularly calling for an expansion of the public sector. The paper can't warn of impending financial ruin while simultaneously advocating the actions that lead to that ruin. At least, it can't do these things if it wishes to be consistent and to be taken seriously.

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