I had coffee recently with my friend, Brian MacKenzie. He was kind enough to comment on an earlier blog to point out that I may be being naive to believe that government can change their ways or even have the ability to cause change. Part of a recent comment:
“Ah, my sage friend, I fear your optimism may be misplaced. Global warming requires only a flaccid, minimally-informed populace to produce the two life-forces of politics–money and power. The painful truth involves the admission that political power and money have no effect on the global climate, and would be best vested in individual responsibility, which to most people seems a little scary, and needlessly burdensome.”
I suspect he is right. “Money and power” is at the root of the malaise. He may also be right that individual responsibility is a nuisance. The general sense is that there is somehow a way for the government to “give us things.”
Can it possibly be otherwise? Well, let’s check.
All actions and processes have readily observable general outcomes. The details may vary but the essentials are there.
In this case, we the people, have at least these choices.
A) Find ways to limit the power of politicians and their civil service allies. Term limits will work for the politicians and the demise of the civil service unions will fix the others. Perhaps we need only amend more senior levels. The loss of “experience” that results may not be a curse. Sometimes the only valuable experience these people hold is the ability to work the system. To paraphrase William F. Buckley Jr. – I would rather be governed by the first 308 names in the Calgary phone book than by the 308 currently elected members of parliament.
B) Find ways to limit the spending. Possibly sunset provisions in regulation and in legislation. A law that prohibits deficit spending or permits spending no more than a percentage of the GDP. Anything that imposes rigor and discipline on spending decisions will help.
C) A requirement that people stop being seduced by empty promises and inefficient implementation of the few projects that start. Essentially demand excellence from government. Nurture the idea of an informed voter.
D) Maintain the status quo.
If you opt for D) then you will soon find that the only way the government can balance their budget, is to unbalance yours.
If you want to change that condition, then as Brian points out, you will need to accept personal responsibility, as in C), and that “to most people seems a little scary, and needlessly burdensome.”
Time to catch up with reality. Something for nothing is the bait in the trap.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.
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