It is amusing to watch politicians trying to separate themselves from the others.
Ideas to cure this and that defect, to do so at no cost, and to make everything fair and beautiful are everywhere just now. Even if the politicians intend to do what they say, the promises are still nonsense.
People solve problems. People create resources. People decide what standard or goal is most important. Politicians get in the way mostly.
Nonetheless we have them and they think what they do is both necessary and important. Some of what they do, a small portion of the total, is important.
Ask yourself which government departments would survive if they charged for their services instead of receiving money from the taxpayers. Why then is indirectly better?
We often hear politicians talk about incentivizing some activity. They will offer means to do so, too. Grants for this, tax breaks for that, support for something else. All helpful in getting elected but not so helpful in incentivizing anything.
Most people are ambitious. The reason they need incentives to do reasonable things is that at some time in the past governments made what people want to do more difficult. If you must produce an incentive to overcome a disincentive, you have the cost of both and the same benefit as if you had done neither.
Clearly then the best incentive for the people is for politicians to remove the disincentives.
That move has many advantages.
- People will understand their world a little better
- The price is much lower
- Taxes can go down because of the saving
- There is no need to stack rules that seem to conflict
- There are no unintended consequences
Removing disincentives seems a goal with value and no cost. It will never happen. Why not? Because politicians would lose power and influence.
Given that rules are unevenly enforced, one, a cynical one I will admit, must come to believe that rules are often created so someone can decide to whom they apply. Help our friends; punish our enemies. If politicians, and/or bureaucrats, hold that attitude we are better without them.
Once established, programs go on forever. The CBC for example probably made sense 60 years ago. Now in a world with hundreds of stations instead of one, does it still? If they charged $100 to each person who wanted access, I doubt they would get close to as much money as they get from the government now. Maybe a PBS-like begging week has to happen.
As the dysfunctional system is well established, it may be too late to recover . You may influence its growth if you vote only for people who promise nothing or even less than nothing.
“Hi, I’m from the government and I am here to help you” sounds like an oxymoron.
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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.