Dependency, Choice and Market Intervention: How Government Meddles With Our Lives

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We are born,
we live and we die … under the scrutiny of government officialdom.
Between our first and last breaths, we make a lot of choices. We
like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers. But are we really
the free spirits that we might hope to be?

Government
is an entity that intervenes in your choices. It stays alive by
influencing your choices in its favour, for this is the means by
which it stays in power. The bigger and more intrusive the government,
the more decisions are made on our behalf. The fewer decisions we
make, the less we have to think. The less we think, the more our
choices can be shaped to our detriment.

Paradoxically,
this is precisely what Government wants. As we become less able
to discern right and wrong, we begin to believe that we need another
department of publicly funded people to tell us what to think. If
you don't believe me, check your telephone directory for as Dave
Barry
used to say, I'm not making this up. There are pages of
government bureaucracies just itching to lecture you on the rights
and wrongs of everything including the metric
system
, horse
racing
and food
preparation
.

We can be dependent
on a valued spouse, or a much loved family … but these dependencies
can make us better people, as we look outside of ourselves to the
betterment of others. But the dependency fostered by government
is unhealthy, as it narrows our choices, reduces our capacity to
make decisions and crimps our freedom.

So let's look
at some of the ways a meddling government messes with your life
to make you dependent on officialdom — in an unhealthy way.

As a
student

As students
spend more years in formal education, our national literacy rates
are declining. One former minister for detention
admitted that 30%
of year 9 students have literary "difficulties." Logically,
the solution would be for students to spend less time in school,
but that would be admitting the system is broken. Advocating more
spending of someone else's money is a much more palatable solution;
it avoids admitting the obvious and absolves us from the blame for
the results.

As readers
of John Taylor
Gatto
would know, the formalised rigour of public school indoctrination
tends to stifle, suffocate and kill off the natural desire to learn.
Regardless of the good intent of many teachers, Gatto describes
schools as places intended to produce a certain type of human being:
compliant, group-focused, and above all, obedient to authority of
all types.

Most children
give in to this process and go through the charade of learning,
at least until they get to work. They may then realise that the
boredom of school work was good preparation for the workforce. But
many of us put off getting full-time work until we complete even
more years of "education"
after leaving school. Qualification
inflation
makes a uni degree almost mandatory just to compete
for a job in the white-collar world.

As Gary North
says,
the piece of paper has become just another recruitment screening
device. In the meantime, the tertiary industry thrives on the constant
demand for its products.

Lengthy qualification
periods are often mandated by meddling Government requirements for
"registration" in myriad number of professions. For specialised
occupations like medicine, engineering or optometry, I can understand
that clients might like the little piece of mind that the framed
piece and an annual licensing fee represents. But also issuing forth
from our halls of learning are degrees in literature, gender studies
or even surfing.

Whilst of great
interest to those so inclined, lengthy years of unnecessary education
do little to add to our ability to work at many white-collar jobs.
Despite the bleating of university tenured professors, the graduates
of these courses won't be using their skills too much. This often
leads to frustration and disappointment as many realise they wasted
years of their lives studying to get the piece of paper before getting
a job.

Then again,
those who try to avoid the grind of employment and further education
by starting their own businesses are by no means safe from unnecessary
bureaucracy either.

As a
business-person

A newly formed
business has a product, lots of ideas and hopefully someone to sell
these to. Often they lack customers and the cash flow they generate.
Starting a business is difficult; there are numerous hoops to jump
through and hurdles to clear. There are government inspectors to
satisfy and regular tax reports to file. This process of complying
with government regulation acts as a brake on innovation, and hinders
businesses actually doing business.

Now of course,
I can hear the shrill objections that without government laws watching
over their shoulders, the greedy capitalist pigs would tie us to
our labours in hot, grimy sweat shops for fourteen hours a day,
whilst the overseers become fat and rich at our expense.

If you've visited
LewRockwell.com before, it is likely you realise the fallacy of
this argument; we've been here before. In a free market, businesses
that make money would attract more entrepreneurial individuals to
grow competing businesses. In such an environment, improving working
conditions would be a natural strategy to attract and retain employees.
Being cajoled into improving conditions through legislation is an
unwelcome imposition that just makes it less likely that business
will do it voluntarily.

But multiple
small businesses are not in the interests of big government. Government
doesn't shower small business with tax incentives to relocate, nor
does it sell water, electricity or gas at cheaper rates to small
businesses. Governments might court big business but they do it
as a show
for the public. It's a symbiotic
relationship. We know that big business influences political decision-making
by making donations and pressuring for favourable policy outcomes,
placing persuasive people in positions to best influence policy
decisions.

Yet somehow
we accept all this as normal. In the process of accepting that big
corporate-sized businesses are natural phenomena, we become dependent
on big business to generate jobs for us. Whilst our small businesses
flounder, fail, and get crushed by over-regulation and blinding
blizzards of bureaucracy.

As a
parent

In time, many
of us will produce offspring. In an era of fiat currency, the expansion
of the money and credit supply produces inflation, devaluing our
currency and making it difficult to save and meet our expenses.
So we continue to work, with often both partners working just to
make ends meet,
the feminist revolution having told us that "fulfilment"
is only found through the salvation of the workplace and a paid
career.

So we reluctantly
(and sometimes joyfully) give over the care of our offspring to
others. But whether we stay at home surrounded by dirty washing,
or guiltily trek off to work to pay the bills, our choices are influenced
by government policy.

Child care
in Australia is heavily subsidised by government; low worker wages
are a result of subsidised demand for a service that few are willing
(or able) to pay the market price for. Most of us can't afford to
hire nannies because inflationary policies constantly devalue our
currency. Thus, we have to work harder, seek promotion or change
jobs to earn more money to improve or just maintain our standard
of living.

In your own
home with young children, it makes sense to lock up your household
chemicals, put barriers across stairs, and tie up your dangling
cords. But if you leave your children in subsidised child care,
there are explicitly detailed regulations that govern the layout
and features of chairs, taps, toilets, hallways, play areas and
so on. Government assumes that you can't assess safety for yourself,
so it writes manuals, employs inspectors and does it for you.

You might have
worked out how to keep your kid safe at home, but don't think for
a minute that government trusts your judgement. If you decide to
try and earn some cash at home by minding the offspring of others,
you will instantly be subject to numerous regulations. This makes
it more difficult for you to compete with the heavily regulated
and government subsidised child care centre down the road with the
fancy signs out the front.

Far from being
the protectors of child safety, these regulations simply act as
barriers to those wanting to set up their own, less formalised child
care arrangements. Scratch another initiative to those who believe
they can keep kids safe without the "help" of a plethora
of manuals, inspectors and regulations.

We only get
to keep our children at home until they have to be enrolled in compulsory
detention for a decade or more. Many of us breathe a sigh of relief
at this point. Perhaps if we realised the effects of a lengthy forced
indoctrination by the school system, we might think differently.

As a
consumer

Everyday we
are surrounded by advertising messages. Buy this, wear that, spend
that … everywhere we look, it seems as though the corporate world
has it in for us to spend, spend, spend.

Where does
this come from?

All consumption
is a choice … or so we think. The action of purchasing a product
involves a transaction, an exchange of goods. This voluntary exchange
takes place when I decide to exchange the fruits of my labour for
a good or service that I want. Do I consume more than I need? In
The Underground
History of American Education
John Taylor Gatto states that
bored people make the best consumers. He goes on to write that "schools
had to be a boring place, and since childish people are the easiest
customers to convince, the manufacture of childishness, extended
into adulthood, had to be the first priority of factory schools."

As adults we
like to believe we're clear thinking, mature people with good taste,
freed from the influences of advertising, boredom or the need for
a little retail
therapy
. I'll readily admit I like hunting out a good pair of
Levis and a neat Colorado shirt as much as the next man. But governments
of all stripes make it more expensive to be neatly dressed; they
intervene to impose tariffs, taxes and duties. This makes clothes
imported from China more expensive than they otherwise would be.
This is often the case when they compete with clothes made in the
factory from the suburb next door.

Governments
believe that making our lives more expensive will somehow preserve
jobs. Making imported goods more expensive somehow gives consumers
the "choice" of buying locally (and "buying your
kids a job," as the ad used to say) or buying the import and
pocketing the difference. Hmmm. Let me think about that one.

We've seen
this in the Aussie car industry; thanks to a reduction of the tariffs
on imported cars, we now buy better, cheaper cars with more features.
They are built in other countries and shipped here. Consumers have
already made their choice; imported cars sell in bigger numbers
each year. This suggests the local manufacturers are making products
that consumers don't want any more. So when we buy fewer of them
we're told that jobs are "at risk." No matter what happens,
we'll still be made to feel guilty for not "buying Australian."

But whether
we talk about cars, clothes, electrical equipment, or clothes washers,
the point is clear: as consumers we are price sensitive and prefer
to pay less for goods. Where government gets out of the way, businesses
import these goods and sell them to us because we want to buy them.
As a result we now have cheaper clothing, better cars at cheaper
prices, and affordable household electrical goods. Now let's hope
the trend doesn't reverse anytime soon. The Australian government
"encourages" local carmakers by giving them money
to develop their products, with more to come.
Given they are selling fewer
of their products than ever before, this hardly seems logical.

In sickness
and in health

When we're
not driving our snazzy cars, avoiding disgruntled former automaker
employees, or browsing the shops for the latest cheap fashions from
China, we might be cursing our local medico for keeping us waiting.
Why is this so? Surely they know we have better things to be doing.

In the last
century, we have enjoyed gains in health and a lengthened life span.
When we get sick, we generally want to get better as quickly as
possible and as cheaply as possible.

Australians
have access to "free" treatment in public hospitals. Many
state governments provide dental services to school children. But
health care costs; inside sources tell me that public health care
is a bucket with no bottom. Every last public dollar could be poured
into hospitals, doctors and health programs and the demand for services
would still outweigh the supply.

So what led
us to this point? Expensive pharmaceuticals? Overpaid doctors? Or
too many administrators?

When we get
sick, we seek out medical intervention. As a provider of services,
government intervenes to try to reduce the cost of running hospitals,
rebating doctor visits and subsidising pharmaceuticals. But this
is a two-edged sword. Where there is government intervention, there
is money to be made. The medical industry knows this, and encourages
us to be repeat customers of medical services on a regular basis.

Hence we're
pushed back into the cycle of having to seek out "qualified"
advice. So we wait in rooms reading magazines that are fit only
for the recycler.

There are lots
of things we can die of. But there are some reasons to believe that
our gains in life expectancy have less to do with high tech solutions
and more to do with choosing to make changes
where we can.

Bill Bonner
(of Daily Reckoning
fame) suggests that too
much
health care has led to diminishing returns. What is going
on here? Do we believe that there will always be a doctor, hospital,
and government-sponsored treatment program there when we need it?
If so, has moral
hazard
taken the axe to our motivation to take care of ourselves?

Hence, secure
in the knowledge of a caring, all-knowing government providing free
or subsidised health services, we can continue on our merry ways,
gaining weight, gathering cavities like lost children and clogging
our arteries with the finest saturated fats that money can buy.

But Government
has friends who help maintain our levels of anxiety. We often hear
panic from the media over health issues like the obesity "crisis."
We hear calls for yet more government intervention to solve the
"problem." But given that government just wants us to
be dependent on it, our misplaced faith in government to look after
us is what is truly dangerous to our health.

So what's
the alternative?

Taking responsibility
for your life is never easy. It takes time, effort and considered
choices. People will ridicule, mock and misunderstand your efforts.
But taking responsibility for your choices is a good start towards
leaving behind what I call a state-sponsored mindset of victimhood.

In making my
own choices, I usually manage to insult people. Today that's included
teachers, medicos, automaker employees, parents, feminists, consumers
and poor people. The perpetuators of victimhood don't like advocates
of free will, personal choice and market ideology. It is far easier
to hurl abuse, denounce you as a simpleton, or send flame-mail than
it is to re-consider your beliefs.

Maintaining
the rage of victimhood will trap you in bitterness and regret. This
will block your chance of making positive decisions and choices
that can improve your life. It is difficult to give up the cloak
of victimhood because it is hard to accept that a state-sponsored
entity does not have our best interests at heart. We are taught
to trust government but we are not taught to take responsibility
for improving our lives. Instead we are taught that we must rely
on yet another government program.

It is easier
to shoot the messenger and get angry at me. But in doing so folk
might have missed the biggest point of our meandering discussion
— that being the issue of private property rights extending to our
bodies, our lives and the responsibility for our choices.

We often hear
of our rights. But we hear less about how our choices lead to outcomes
and consequences. In becoming dependent on government interference
in our lives, we forfeit the understanding of the consequences of
our choices. We subconsciously believe there will always be someone
there to pick up the pieces. In this we too easily embrace the role
of victim. We forget that at some point we made and continue to
make choices that perpetuate learned
helplessness
. This leaves us vulnerable to claims that we need
government to look after us, because we believe we are incapable
of looking after ourselves.

Whilst we continue
to espouse our helplessness, we will fall prey to the misguided
logic that says the world, the government, or just plain someone
else, owes us a living. It doesn't. I must take responsibility for
my choices. I also know that we don't all have equal measures of
fortune, talent or other accidents of the gene pool. This doesn't
mean we can pout about bad luck. I could choose to be envious of
movie stars, famous athletes or media magnets with inherited wealth.
Instead I choose to get on with life and do the best with the opportunities
I have.

When it comes
to money, all of us live the life that our means will support (or
perhaps a little more). If I choose to buy health insurance, it
is because I have chosen to forego a flashy car, a plasma TV or
an overseas holiday. Buying health insurance doesn't for example
change the teeth I inherited or the colour of my skin. But I can
choose to use sunscreen and visit the dentist regularly.

Whether we
are at work, school, raising our families or reviewing our budget,
we make choices that reflect our understanding of our priorities,
our choices, and the consequences of our choices.

Trusting your
government to make decisions for you is forfeiting your right to
choose for yourself. Worse, it condemns to you to perpetual victimhood
and a life of misplaced faith in an entity that cares little for
you as an individual, except to pick your pockets, influence your
choices and mock your dignity. You can do better.

August
25, 2006

Darren
Tulk [send him mail]
is working for government until his business is up and running.
Visit his website.

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