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Buck the Yoke Posts

Freedom, coercion , and the invisible incentive structures that steer humankind.

It is the natural course of government to continually grow larger over time, something like a parasite eating (and eventually killing) its host. There are many reasons for this growth, all of which can be attributed to human nature, and simple incentive structures. First, we must look at the type of people that are typically drawn to work in government, after all, when we boil it down, government is just a group of individuals working together within the same organization, therefore in order to understand the organization, we must understand the nature of the individuals that it is comprised of. Let’s start out with the type of public servant that we are taught about in our middle school textbooks, this person (we will call him Joe) is an outstanding citizen, family man, is involved with the community, has high moral standards, and is widely considered an all around good guy. Joe wants to get involved in his government so he decides to run for congress, and he wins. (hooray!) The very act of Joe running for a seat tells us a few things about Joe. It tells us that he is ambitious, he thinks he has good ideas, and ultimately thinks him he can make a difference. Joe, as the representative of his state, gets to make certain votes on behalf of his constituents, perhaps he even gets to create legislation. Joe, along with the rest of his well intentioned colleagues, have a bias for always taking action, they signed up for the job to make a difference and to help the community, not to just sit on their hands. It is extremely rare that the government doesn’t have some type of solution (by way of new laws) to offer up to any given perceived problem. However, if we extrapolate this over time, this bias for action means we will constantly be adding more rules, regulations, taxes, restrictions. As we create a more complex, and less free society, there become problems that result from this over regulation, and over involvement of government in every aspect of our lives. In the above story about Joe, we used the fairy tale scenario that everyone in government is well intentioned, of course, we all know this isn’t the case in reality, but the point is, that even IF every single person in government was well intentioned, the structure of government is set up in a way where there is nothing preventing them from continued expansion. We then enter an arena where, it can be difficult to tell what problems actually need legislation or regulation to solve, and what problems have arisen or been made worse as a result of previous government regulation and legislation. Are we really to believe that even the most well intentioned government representatives are humble enough to look objectively at their own organization to assess if their actions are making problems worse rather than actually solving them? I’m not saying that this is what is happening, I’m just asking…

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