Who Really 'Serves the Nation'?

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In a few short weeks, spring will be upon us, and many college
seniors — possibly a good number of LRC readers — will be in the
midst of searching for a job, possibly embarking on a long-term
career. They might attend job fairs at their colleges. Those who
are more aggressive, especially during the current economic doldrums,
are probably networking through their parents, relatives, and friends
as well as checking out newspaper advertisements.

such advertisement appeared in the Sunday, February 9, 2003 Washington
Post. On page K13 was a full color 5 3/4 by 7 3/8 inch copy
of a Chinese print, with Chinese letters above a sketch of a
ram. Beneath the sketch was the following come-on:

true to our global focus, the Central Intelligence Agency welcomes
the Chinese New Year and its celebration of rejuvenation and renewal.
Just as the

Year of the Ram is centered on a strong and clear motivation for peace,

harmony, and tranquility during challenging times, we are equally intent on our

mission to safeguard America and its people. You, too, can play a key role in

this important responsibility. Why work for a company when you can serve the
nation (my italics)? For additional information and to apply online,
please visit
our website at www.cia.gov."

citizens — especially a preponderance of those living inside the Washington
Beltway — would think such an advertisement was
eye catching and trendy in a new age sort of way. In fact, the
CIA probably received a lot of responses to this ad. Furthermore,
many might even agree with the italicized sentence in the advertisement,
thinking that someone who goes to work for the CIA is actually
providing a greater benefit to the nation than someone who works
in the private sector. The ad implies that going to work for the
CIA — or for that matter, the federal government — is an act of
patriotism (the love of one's country and the defense and promotion
of its interests) whereas taking a job in the private sector is

But these people are wrong. Why?

First of all,
the CIA reports to the President of the United States and generally
what he tells it to do; that is, the CIA acquires
and produces "intelligence" that meets his demands. More
often than not, his demands for intelligence coincide with the
needs of the political and commercial elite in this country, especially
with regard to making it safe for large U.S. multinational enterprises
to expand overseas and dominate world markets.

course, since the mid-1970’s, the CIA has also had to satisfy
the Congress,
with regard to getting Congressional approval
for sensitive intelligence operations. But do the President and
Congress really articulate the needs of each and every American
with regard to the CIA's operations and the products it produces?
The answer is an emphatic NO!

Despite the fact that the public is forced to pay for CIA activities,
it cannot get access to classified CIA reports nor can it demand
that CIA produce intelligence assessments of topics not specified
by the President and the Congress. Because most intelligence products
are classified, the public has no way of knowing — short of someone
leaking the information — whether or not the resulting intelligence
is what they would freely purchase to assure their safety. Nor
can they be sure that the report has not been rigged — or buried — in order to satisfy the political and commercial elites.

For instance,
since I cannot get access to CIA reports on the alleged connection
of Iraq to al Qaeda, I have no way of evaluating
the veracity of George Bush's claim that Iraq helped al Qaeda attack
the U.S. on 9/11. In fact, Bush's unwillingness to release such
information made me uneasy and led me to conclude
that there was and is no such link between Iraq and al Qaeda and
that the U.S. has no justification for attacking Iraq.

As a result,
I do not benefit from CIA's activities — at least
at the current level and scope — at a time when I and other Americans
need to make our voices heard on the extremely grave issue of the
U.S. starting a war. And that is also true for the vast majority
of the American public.

Thus, anyone
contemplating getting a job with the CIA, at least as it is currently
would really not be working for
the benefit of the nation as a whole. Instead, he would be paid
by the public but would be working for the benefit of the political
and commercial elites. One can conclude that getting a job at the
CIA is not necessarily an act of patriotism.

And this is true for those working for all other federal government
activities, not just the CIA. A minority of citizens or groups
benefit from federal activities.

What about working in the private sector? Is one being patriotic
by taking a job in the private sector instead of working for the
CIA or another part of the federal government?

Here, the free market provides an extremely clear answer to the
question — an emphatic YES!

Consumers, in a free voluntary exchange, pay for those goods and
services — at the quality they want and in the quantity they need.
They get the benefits. Workers earn their pay and firms earn a
profit by providing those desired goods and services.

Those not wanting to buy a product or service do not benefit from
it, but then they are not forced to pay for it. They purchase those
things they want and need.

Adding it all up, under free and voluntary exchange, everyone
benefits. And they do so in a peaceful way. Because private firms
are subject to both the profit test and the solvency test, we also
know that resources are being used as efficiently as possible.
Despite various re-inventions, we can never know this for
government activities. In fact, it would only be by sheer happenstance
that any government activity could ever approach the efficiency
of a similar operation run by the private sector.

Anyone considering a job with the CIA or the rest of the federal
government — at the current grossly oversized level — should not
be blinded by visions of patriotism since his work will benefit
a few — the political and commercial elites — and not the nation
as a whole.

Instead, young people would be wiser to start a career in the
private sector, where, by their daily example, they would be showing
their neighbors and the rest of civilization that free markets — through peaceful and voluntary exchange — produce the most happiness
that is possible in this world. And it would help reverse the impression
of our current enemies — and even some friends — that the U.S.
is a nation bent on the reckless worldwide expansion of an empire.

Those who love their country and who want to defend and promote
its interests would indeed be patriotic by taking a job in the
private sector.

25, 2003

Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send
him mail
], formerly an economist with the federal government,
writes to “un-spin” the federal government’s attempt to con
the public.


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