Saturday, January 06, 2007

NOTHING IS SO PERMANENT

One of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman's most famous quotes is, "Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program."

I recall this quote while reading Jeff Alwin's letter concerning KVZK. Mr. Alwin's arguments help to explain why government departments that compete with the private sector are here to stay today, tomorrow and forever no matter how efficient the free market becomes.

First is the notion that one is entitled to live at another person's expense. While KVZK may be free to anyone with an antenna, someone's still out there footing the bill. There are really only two reasons liberals use to justify this "public service" by government: 1) the users are poor and 2) the "someone" footing the bill is rich and deserves to be forced to pay for it. Of course, by this silly standard the rich should also fork up the money to ensure everyone gets a copy of Samoa News!

As long as the concept of inequality in wealth is enough justification for redistribution, some government program will exist to serve that purpose. While there are people in dire circumstances and in need of true help, government programs are rarely successful in targeting those people only. Instead, these "free" or "cheap" services subsidize those who can afford to pay the market price but don't.

This results in a loss to a consumer base for which the private sector would normally serve. Why would any rational person pay for something the government provides for free or at a subsidized price? Why go to BoH when there's the DBAS or Blue Sky when there's ASTCA or PCS-TV when there's KVZK-TV? This is how government crowds out private investment and competition, and thus prolongs the life of the government program and its interference in the marketplace.

The second reason and more determining factor in the longevity of a government program is the number of constituents who become dependent upon it. Both the users and administrators of the program will fight tooth and nail to maintain the "free service" because it will become an expense they've never had to personally bear. So to shift the cost of the program from the "someone" to the "user" will be seen as an attack on the "user" while it will be a "relief" to the "someone" who's been paying for it the entire time.

And it's funny how Mr. Alwin (especially politicians) talks about procuring funding as if taxpayers didn't exist and funds for government programs grew on trees.

The market price sums up what's possible in a free society. It's important for us to pay the market price so as to encourage real investment, real development and real progress for our people. As we progress economically, costs for both our wants and needs will come down thus raising the standard of living for all.

KVZK-TV is nice but not free. If we are to move forward, we need to begin shutting down these unnecessary costs to us taxpayers and move such functions to where they belong: the private sector.

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