Monday, September 26, 2005

My forecasting record: so far, so good

In July, I predicted that the random searches of NYC subway and commuter train passengers' bags, backpacks and briefcases are "diverting police from other duties, and they don't make New York one whit safer." In August, I was proven correct when someone was smoking inside the subway. Update: I didn't finish my thought there. The person was smoking in the underground passage connecting Grand Central to the subway, in violation of NYC law. But there were no cops around, including at the kiosk down the hall, because they're all so busy checking innocent people's bags.

On September 8th, I predicted fraud and abuse of the $2000 debit cards that were handed out to those claiming to be victims of Hurricane Katrina:
Let me throw out a few predictions. People will falsify records to obtain more cards, and government bureaucrats will be so eager to help as many as possible; their programs' success is determined by numbers, not results. Others may use only cards obtained "legitimately," but they'll spend the money all on clothes and other items which can be resold readily for cash -- perhaps to support drug addictions or even crime. Are you a criminal in need of firearms, and you were too slow to steal them from evacuated homes? No problem: the federal government just gave you a $2000 gift card! Strike up a deal with a black market supplier and see what he wants that you can get.

If the possibilities weren't so tragic, this might be a good lesson for economics students on the barter system.
Though I didn't predict strippers and Louis Vitton handbags, McQ of QandO confirmed my general idea. He cited this from the Times Online -- a UK writer, keenly aware of the fraud and waste while most Americans remain ignorant! Not only that, he properly criticized us for keeping a government bent on runaway spending.

McQ's commentary:
Yes, we're doing a world of good with most of those $2,000 debit cards which are being handed out like candy in an Iraqi village. Or so we hope. But really, is it going where it needs to go? Ask the strippers at Baby Dolls in Houston...

Seems that some define "necessities" much differently than others.

It is this sort of misuse and fraud which have many, many people very leary about how the money literally being thrown at Katrina relief will be managed. People don't mind helping and don't mind giving, but they expect those charged with executing the relief effort to spend what they worked so hard for and then gave away is used for its intended purpose.
One of the people who left comments provided this Orlando Sentinel story, which documents fraud and waste in money FEMA had given out after previous disasters.

Government charity is consistently doomed to fail. It's impersonal, with the donor and recipient almost always isolated. It's coerced, with the donor forced to "give" to someone who doesn't necessarily need (or deserve) the "help." Yet many people still insist the programs are necessary, because despite their many failings, "at least some people get help." The same people insist that private charity cannot compete, which is not true: Americans give $250 billion annually to private charity. Our actions after 9/11, the tsunami and now Hurricane Katrina prove that people still have a heart -- we just need to shake off the 70-year-old paternalist mentality that government's purpose is to take care of us. Could Jefferson have defined government's role any more plainly in the Declaration of Independence?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
So that I don't just repeat my earlier entries, I invite you to read my previous entries on government charity:

What kind of "privatization" is this?
What did we really expect?
The umpteenth failure of government charity
"We want to get them enrolled"
When government makes people poor

I will, though, repeat a few memorable quotes:

Adam Smith: "How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner."

James Madison: "The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." Also, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." (With thanks to Walter Williams.)

Congressman Davey Crockett: "We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity, but as members of Congress, we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money."

Frédéric Bastiat: "Do those worshippers of government believe that free persons will cease to act? Does it follow that if we receive no energy from the law, we shall receive no energy at all? Does it follow that if the law is restricted to the function of protecting the free use of our faculties, we will be unable to use our faculties? Suppose that the law does not force us to follow certain forms of religion, or systems of association, or methods of education, or regulations of labor, or regulations of trade, or plans for charity; does it then follow that we shall eagerly plunge into atheism, hermitary, ignorance, misery, and greed? If we are free, does it follow that we shall no longer recognize the power and goodness of God? Does it follow that we shall then cease to associate with each other, to help each other, to love and succor our unfortunate brothers, to study the secrets of nature, and to strive to improve ourselves to the best of our abilities?"

Milton Friedman: "...if I spend somebody else's money on somebody else, I'm not concerned about how much it is, and I'm not concerned about what I get. And that's government. And that's close to 40% of our national income."

Russell Roberts: "There are two different philosophical arguments against the idea of people taking care of themselves. One view argues that government provision of social security is simply better because it is a contract between the generations where we all take responsibility for one another. To me this is romance at best or a hoax or a fraud at worst. What does it mean to say we all take responsibility for one another? A family of 300 million people isn't a family. And somehow I lose all the romance when poor workers are taxed to support wealthy retirees. I just don't get it."


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home