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What government is for: Part 3
By Ted Abram on March 08, 2011
Personal Freedom and Power 109: Local Governance
To maximize human freedom society must seek family, community and local government solutions before national or international governments.
The Washington Post listed their priorities for the federal government – national defense; welfare programs; infrastructure projects for economic development; and federal dollars for health, education and science.
My first post criticized the Washington Post for encouraging an erratic system of governance, and totally ignored the paramount importance of a stable and predictable legal order.
The second post, criticized the Washington Post’s preference for taxing the public for non-essential government services.
This final post emphasizes local system of governance: To maximize human freedom, society must seek family, community and local government solutions before nation or international government.
James Madison knew government was an enormous power, which humans would always seek to manipulate for their personal gain. Sadly, the federal government has been captured by thousands of special interest groups. The Great Society instituted in the mid 1960s by Lyndon Johnson is an example. Intended to eliminate poverty, the original program was very expansive and expensive. Government money, especially large sums of money, always attracts money-seeking predators – individuals and institutions - which become very intense lobbying associations. Thus, well-intended programs become hijacked by the money-seeking predators and the original program morphs into more tangential programs and more predatory institutions.
This is the process that transformed welfare into a mammoth hodgepodge of programs and federal entitlements, which by 1990 provided a young, pregnant woman approximately $25,000 of money, goods and services. To keep these benefits, the federal law required that she did not work and could not be married to an employed male.
For 30 years, the welfare system continuously morphed and was ardently supported by the predators: welfare bureaucrats, university research academics, legal aid associations, and federal and state politicians. All the predators received federal and state money to implement, evaluate and control these ever-expanding programs.
Finally, the public sensed something was rotten and demanded reform. In the mid 1990s some of the worst abuses of federal law were eliminated, but the welfare industry (the predators) merely changed emphasis to medical care for the poor and continue to reap tons of money from the federal and state governments.
Mission creep and lack of accountability are gigantic wastes of resources. For example, a recent Government Accounting Office (GAO) report revealed there are 80 different programs to help disadvantaged people with transportation; 47 for job training and employment; and 56 to help people understand finances.
Beyond the financial waste, in the case of public assistance, the quality of care is better administered by the local community. Neighbors observe and care for people in need. Some people need encouragement and tender care, others need a scolding and tough love. A government bureaucrat has limited discretion. Under a rule-laden bureaucratic federal system, either a person fits within the rule or not. The person is entitled to welfare and Food Stamps or is not. Further, the bureaucrat and the recipient have little or no exchange of concern or respect.
Much more humane and discerning is assistance by family, church, and community (including local government), where knowledge, concern, reciprocity and personal attention are better utilized.
As stated, thousands of federal programs have morphed, expanded and been hijacked by predatory interest groups. Now, in a time of national financial crisis, is the opportunity to restructure public assistance to the local community.
Difficult? Very! Necessary? Yes, essential. America’s federal debt is very dangerous to the stability of America and the world. To reduce the debt America must cut spending. A Harvard study finds that cutting government employees and restructuring transfer programs is essential in reducing government debt.
Restructuring public assistance to the community would greatly reduce wasteful, incompetent and poorly administered public assistance programs. There is no law of nature preventing this transfer. Only the corrupt politics of big government stops these necessary corrections.
The convergence of America’s dangerous debt, essential spending reductions, bold and innovative governors and an ever-expanding concerned citizenry creates the opportunity for substantive and beneficial change.
The reform will be very difficult to achieve, but absolutely essentia