If you either owned or worked for a small business you probably have a number of expectations. For example, the owner of the business expects that his or her clients will pay their invoices in a timely manner so that they in turn can pay their suppliers and their employees. The employees expect that if they show up for work and accomplish the tasks assigned to them, they are going to walk in on Friday and be handed their check – which they will be able to negotiate at their bank so that they can pay their bills.
Unfortunately, “The best laid plans of mice and men …”. Sometimes things simply do not go as planned. The company’s clients might be experiencing a downturn in their business and their cash flow and pay their bills more slowly than usual. This puts a strain on the small business owner who is depending on those payments so he can make his own payments both to his suppliers and workers. Without having a contingency plan to counter this, that small business owner might either be late in paying his own bills and employees, or simply write checks which he knows perfectly well will be returned for “Insufficient Funds.”
No one is so prescient as to be able to predict the future accurately one hundred percent of the time. But no business would survive if it developed a business plan which was incorrect one hundred percent of the time. The free market has a simple, unyielding way of dealing with this level of incompetency. The business shutters its doors and its employees have to find new jobs.
Now one can understand how a new business owner might stumble and be unprepared for an unexpected aberration from what he has forecast. These sort of mistakes are actually good because they cause the thinking entrepreneur to plan against such future situations – if he survives the first lesson. But if he survives a business-threatening event and fails to learn a lesson, he is likely to find himself in a crisis situation the next time around.
We can only make the same mistake once. The second time it’s a choice. One might argue that barring an extraordinary, once in a lifetime external event, say having a two mile wide meteor crash into Earth, the only reason for having to deal with a crisis is failure to having taken the steps to avoid it in the first place. Thus, virtually all crises are the direct result of either inattention, ineptitude, ignorance or arrogance.
I would argue that government is a business – one that enjoys advantages that no other business has. In fact it is the biggest business in the country with more than 22 million employees. Compare that to Walmart, generally categorized as the largest employer in America with a total of 1.4 million workers. In terms of longevity, government in America has been around for well over two hundred years while Walmart is a relative newcomer with only fifty-two years under its belt. There is one even more important difference between these two employers. The government consistently runs a deficit. Walmart consistently makes money – and then is taxed on its profitability to fund the deficits that government compiles.
Reasonably, one would expect that government with its length of experience would easily implement programs which would actually work. But counter-intuitively, just the opposite seems to be the case. Not only is government wasteful, it does not see this as a disincentive to engaging in yet more waste. The simple reason is that it has an unlimited checkbook, no accountability for the ineptitude of its executives and can (or so it believes) continue to run perpetually at a loss. It justifies these deficits as being necessary in the “social interest.”
The “social interest” was well defined in the Declaration of Independence – a separation from what until its signing had been the government of the colonies. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were considered the basis of the “social interest” as it applied to each person. Anything constraining, hindering or impairing that was an expression of injustice.
And so the colonists set on a path which resulted in the greatest crisis that Great Britain had ever experienced and which resulted in a nation and a world that for the first time recognized that it was the individual, only as he or she gave consent to the existence of the state, who was most to be considered in determining what was right or wrong and what was good or evil.
There are many in this country who earnestly believe that the solution to government incompetence is to have more of it. In many cases their conclusions are reached, not as the result of great thought, but because in the short term they see themselves reaping the benefits of wasteful policy by way of personal economic gain. And as long as they can vote for and pressure those who represent them into increasing these benefits at whatever ultimate cost, they will continue to empower people whose only interest is in advancing their own political careers while all the time making the specious argument that what they do is in “the public good.”
There comes a tipping point, as there did in Boston Harbor in 1773, when those who are productive, mind their business and want no more than to be left alone from the intrusions of others finally have had that final straw laid on their backs and they will say, “Stop. Enough is enough.” And that will be the final crisis which our government will have the opportunity to mismanage.