Saturday, March 26, 2005

Corruption: A Mix of Greed and Force

Many people have expressed their concerns about corruption in the local government. Greed is usually suspect, but it is definitely not the culprit. Greed actually does society good. It’s what wakes us up in the morning to earn that paycheck. It’s what inspires us work late hours. The whole idea behind the invisible hand has been at work for over 200 years.

Greed is bad when individuals satisfy their desires by using force. The distinction made then is that greed is good until someone uses force to satisfy that greed. The following are some events that demonstrate how the ASG uses force to gain what it desires:

  • When the U.N. put American Samoa on the decolonization list, our leaders rushed to get us off that list. The ASG does not want to stop milking the American taxpayer. American taxpayers are forced to finance the ASG.
  • Our leaders tried to keep the tuna industry hostage in American Samoa with laws that limit its sources of supply (Country of Origin Labeling) and labor (AG Sialega’s anti-immigration agenda).
  • The customs agency gave itself a pat on the back last year for diligently pursuing collections on individuals and businesses.
  • The Treasury’s and the Development Bank’s lack of accountability led to theft. The same is true of other government programs and departments.

The ASG did pursue some of the right initiatives. Such leadership was likely influenced by other factors other than the pursuit of sound economic policy. It is not important though. The fact is that force on individuals is absent in the following:

  • The administration attempted to allow more foreigners to invest in the territory.
  • The ASG passed legislation allowing banks to charge higher interest rates though the ASG should remove the limits altogether.
  • The Tourism office attempted to allow taxis to charge higher fares. It is necessary to remove those limits along with limits on bus fares.

It is noticeable that the ASG does right by allowing individuals and businesses more freedom to satisfy their greed as long as individuals and businesses do not stomp on the freedoms and right of others. When the ASG consolidates power and responsibility, it only increases the probability of corruption.

Here is a recommendation for the ASG: completely privatize those things that the private sector can handle and then keep your hands off. Education and the LBJ hospital are two sectors being bogged down by bureaucracy; the ASG is now reaping what it has sown. For functions that pertain to the maintenance and operation of the government itself, the ASG needs to outsource as much as possible, strengthen its means of evaluating contractors’ work, and renegotiate contracts every 2-3 years.

Here is a suggestion for the people: get mad at poor government performance. There was an incident at Hawaiian Airlines last year when passengers were becoming impatient with a delay in the airline’s schedule. There was almost a riot. I don’t understand why people would act that way with a profit-seeking company but then suffer in silence with mediocre government; it is mind-boggling.

Our misconception about greed is the reason why we treat Hawaiian Airlines and other private companies with suspicion and contempt. The private sector has always provided the best possible services at the lowest prices possible. Can the ASG replace Hawaiian Airlines? The ASG cannot even secure flights between Manu’a and Tutuila, and that is only a tiny fraction of the distance between Tutuila and Hawaii. The indication then is that more government functions would benefit from a move to the private sector. That is because people can not rely on the short cut of force to fulfill what is in their self-interest – especially the ASG.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Limit Government You Limit Corruption

The people of American Samoa demand accountability in the ASG. Many of us feel that the FBI and even a federal court are necessary to achieve accountability. We should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and allow the federal government to enforce accountability over its grants to American Samoa. Yet, I am baffled that our Congressman would approve of such federal interventions while opposing the option of reinstating the Government Comptroller. Does Faleomavaega believe we could “develop into a fully-functioning, self-governing entity” with the FBI and a Federal Court rather than a lone office of a Government Comptroller?

The problem with our government is not corrupt people. The problem is giving corrupt people the power to be corrupt. Let us take bingo and immigration as examples. Certain Senators want to curb these so-called problems. Once they have placed these areas in their realm of rules and regulation, the people who will get exemptions from these rules are those who placed them there in the first place along with their families, their churches, their villages and their friends. The way to get rid of corruption is to get rid of the power that allows it to happen, and we don’t need the FBI or a Federal Court to make that happen. Do not allow the ASG to outlaw bingo, outlaw immigration, regulate free speech and subsidize businesses (e.g. the Rainmaker) with the people’s money, and then we will have for ourselves a fully functioning entity.

In addition, if we could change government from a tax-coercing monster to a fee-based customer server, we will take huge steps in a more independent direction. It is only in government where users are treated like parasites that waste the government’s precious resources and are discouraged from coming back for more. A profit seeking institution would never turn down more customers, but would instead innovate and lower its costs to meet consumer demand in an openly competitive free market. Economic fact. Our officials need to become leaders and privatize education and the LBJ.

We are fast moving down the road where our artificial standard of living will erode in face of trillions of dollars of U.S. national debt and a nearly depleted fishing stock. If the rejection of section 936 does not chase the tuna industry away, the rising cost of fish will. When that happens, AG Togafau will not have to worry about rounding up “illegal immigrants.” They, along with many Samoans, will voluntarily leave on their own, and the ASG will long for the return of present days when people wanted to come to American Samoa instead of trying to leave it as quickly as possible.