There are few things more dangerous to private enterprise than government bureaucrats with time on their hands. And since most bureaucrats have no legitimate reason for being – they have lots and lots of time on their hands.
In 2009, the federal government had at least 2,748,978 employees – and 97.6% of civilian federal employees were in the executive branch (and do you think that tally has ticked up a bit during the Barack Obama Administration?) These are the departments, agencies, commissions and boards populated by people who do very little but promulgate and impose regulations – and enforce them.
But government doesn’t even enforce their own rules well. Because in addition to being boorish and overbearing, unilateral and tyrannical – government is unavoidably, inherently incompetent. Because of (at least) two immutable rules of human nature – the Wallet Rule and the Yellow Pages Rule.
The Wallet Rule: “You go out on a Friday night with your wallet. You go out the following Friday night with my wallet. On which Friday night are you going to have more fun?” Obviously you will have more fun with my wallet than yours – because at the end of the revelry you care what your wallet looks like. My wallet? You don’t care quite so much. Government is always using other peoples’ wallets – and the Friday night party never, ever ends.
The Wallet Rule is a key component of the Yellow Pages Rule: “If you can find it in the Yellow Pages (or on YellowPages.com) – the government shouldn’t be doing it.” Private businesses are operating on their own wallets – so they will do everything better, more wisely and more prudentially than government. Including monitoring their own adherence to governments’ ridiculous regulations.
To wit: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In early August, the EPA begrudgingly admitted they spilled three million gallons of toxic bright orange mess into Colorado’s Animas River. Why was there such a huge accumulated reserve of such nastiness for the EPA to spill? Because the EPA mandates it be collected – and the mining company was in successful compliance. If the mining company had committed the spill, they would be fined – by the EPA. Likely to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. Is the EPA subject to similar fines? Of course not.
But that was a one time assault on the environment – an accidental one-off. The EPA is usually much more careful, right? Of course not.
In Greensboro (Georgia), EPA-funded contractors grading a toxic 19th-century cotton mill site struck a water main, sending the deadly sediment into a nearby creek. Though that accident took place five months ago, the hazard continues as heavy storms — one hit the area Tuesday — wash more soil into the creek.
The sediment flows carry dangerous mercury, lead, arsenic and chromium downstream to Lake Oconee and then to the Oconee River — home to many federally and state protected species.
Lead in the soil at the project site is 20,000 times higher than federal levels established for drinking water, said microbiologist Dave Lewis, who was a top-level scientist during 31 years at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Then there are the “green” “energy” sources – which the EPA oversees. These fuels are supposed to revolutionize how we power our lives – and treat the environment. And they have. We get much less energy (much more expensively) – and it is all much worse for the environment.
Manufacturing and disposing of solar panels is an environmental nightmare mess. Manufacturing ethanol uses more fossil fuel than using fossil fuel does – and burning food for fuel creates global food shortages. Wind farms kill thousands and thousands of birds a year. Oh – so do solar panel farms.
Does the EPA fine these inherent, perpetual environmental offenders? Of course not – it grants blanket, serial, rolling waivers. And why would the government fine them – when it funds them? In just one instance, to the tune of $80 billion in the 2009 “Stimulus.”
The EPA creates way too many, way too expensive regulations. It is grossly incompetent at enforcing them – and crony-selective in how it does so. The private sector, conversely, creates more and more for all of us – in ever cleaner and cleaner fashion. Right up until the EPA gets involved – and time and again mucks it all up. Yet another example of the Watchers being far worse for us than the Watched.
This guest post is by Seton Motley, President and Founder of Less Government