Why do government buildings and equipment seem so often to be run down? Why do U.S. Post Offices so often look so dilapidated like they haven’t been cleaned up since the 50s?
The answer is the simple fact that people don’t really care too much about how they spend other people’s money or how they treat buildings and equipment in which they have no vested interest. Government money comes from private individuals who have little to say about how this money will be spent, so it’s “free money” to be spent however the government wishes. Government buildings and equipment belong to “the government” (AKA “the public”, AKA “the people”) but since nobody personally owns these things other than a vague entity called “government”, no one really cares or has an interest in maintaining these buildings or equipment. People are always more careful with their own money than with other people’s money. You care much more about your own money and how you spend it than you do about spending someone else’s money.
That in a nutshell is a significant difference between government and the free market economy. Government projects are always funded by other people’s money whereas free market capitalist ventures are funded by themselves directly and through loans or venture funding in which they have a personal interest. Government people’s futures are not vested in the success of their government projects whereas the future of buyers and sellers in the free market are intimately tied to the success of their ventures and actions. Bureaucrats don’t know and don’t really care where their money comes from. Their buildings and equipment isn’t really “theirs” – it belongs to “the government”, so lack of care is commensurate with their lack of ownership.
A good example are the hideous Housing Projects. The people living in them don’t own them so they are in no position to improve them because the projects belong to the “government”. The bureaucrats overseeing these projects have no personal stake in the condition of the projects. As long as the bureaucrats get their money, the bureaucrats are happy. At some point, the original purported high-moral intention and reason for the bureaucracy is lost. There is a complete disconnect between the income of a bureaucracy and the performance for which it was created to being with.
It is a myth that only business has personal interest. Personal interest is very strong in government because “government” is really just a bunch of people. Personal interest within government is tied essentially to getting a paycheck and increasing that paycheck and power however possible. This is why government is rife with corruption – the bigger, less accountable the government, the more rife with corruption.
I define corruption in government as putting one’s own political/government career ahead of the interests of the politician’s constituents, those who the bureaucrats supposedly serve, and ultimately ahead of the interests of America. Government corruption is intrinsic precisely to the degree government income (“revenue”) is disconnected from its performance. Based on nothing other than the tax code, government revenue is forced out of the American People’s pockets against their will and self-interest. And it is never in the self-interest of government to down-size itself because that means government people being out of work. So government ultimately exists for its own perpetuation.
The only thing to mitigate unchecked government corruption is the American People through their power of the vote (and the states rejecting and nullifying unconstitutional federal acts, which by definition are acts of tyranny). To the degree the American People vote out self-serving government officials and politicians, to that degree the politicians will behave on behalf of their constituents ONLY because it would be in the politician’s self-interest to do so. To the degree the American People cease to vigilantly root out corrupt government officials and politicians, to that degree government corruption will continue and increase. Such is the state of things today. Unconstitutionally huge government is a win-lose. The only winners are people on the government payroll and the losers are the American People, the “taxpayers”.
Contrast that with the free market. Unlike government income derived from coercive, forced, and disconnected methods of taxation, income in the free market economy comes directly from the voluntary cooperation of buyers and sellers acting in their own self-interest. Nobody has to buy or sell anything from anyone. That means that in the open market, producer/sellers must make the highest quality goods at the lowest prices according to the buyer/consumers’ demand. Good faith on the producer/seller’s part is, therefore, intrinsic because otherwise the buyer/consumer won’t buy the product or service and the producer/seller doesn’t get an income. The performance of the producer/seller is DIRECTLY tied to his income.
Everything the buyer and seller obtains belong to them (except of course what the government forces them to give up). So, their actions in the free market are acutely connected their own interests and future. Since what they have obtained belongs to them, the pride of ownership and prospects for future business gives them great interest in maintaining the high quality of their buildings and equipment. The free market is a win-win for both the buyer and the seller. And since the free market economy creates wealth, people in general win because the economy, and thus opportunity, grows and expands.