Confessions of a 'Public Servant'

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This article
originally appeared in the May 1995 Free
Market
.

You’re looking
for a job. You want to get paid several times your worth, come and
go when you please, work only when you feel like it, take as long
a lunch as you want, and get ten paid holidays per year and six
weeks paid vacation per year. There’s only one way to go: work for
the federal government.

Few Americans,
I’m afraid, have any idea, what it’s like. If they did, there would
be a political earthquake. As a member of the Parasitic Class for
15 years, I have witnessed and participated in this corrupt and
grotesquely unfair system first hand. I am both qualified and morally
obligated to expose it.

You could,
of course, call me a hypocrite. I have prospered financially beyond
my wildest dreams. Given my talents and work, my standard of living
is higher than anything I could earn in the private sector.

But by reading
the right books, and talking at length with my wife (a private-sector
employee) and our friends in the private sector, I have come to
see this repugnant system for what it’s worth.

What draws
people to government work? What keeps them there for a lifetime?
It’s simple: overcompensation, huge benefits, and great working
conditions. It’s attractive to sign up and nearly impossible to
leave. That’s because the government, by and large, rewards skills
and experience that are unmarketable in the private sector, at least
not at the same level of pay.


 

$20
    $18

 

 
 

Take me for
example. I have a degree in political science. I write, edit, and
research. The taxpayers pay me approximately $65,000 in salary,
excluding benefits. I could not legally earn this in the private
sector. If you don’t believe me, peruse the want ads. Salaries for
"writer/editor" and "research analyst" start
in the low $20s.

Let’s say I
took a job in the private sector (presuming that someone would hire
a person who has spent his whole adult life working for the government).
And let’s pretend I can earn $65,000.

What would
I lose if I left the government? The short work week would be out
the window. I could take off early, but this would be detrimental
to my income. I would have to meet deadlines, because consumers
want jobs done in a timely manner.

I would have
to forget about ten paid holidays. People in the private sector
have a hard time getting paid on Thanksgiving. My private-sector
friends laugh at me when I tell them I get paid for such bogus holidays
as Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Columbus Day.

And vacations?
Right now, I can spend 8.7% of my work time on vacation. That’s
six weeks per year in perpetuity. The average vacation time in the
private sector is two weeks, and it’s not an entitlement.

I could also
forget about the unofficial "bennies": for example, I
take an hour-long jog every day, followed by a shower and a leisurely
lunch. It keeps me in tip-top condition for my vacations. And shopping
excursions during work are always possible. What about stress? If
relaxation lengthened life, bureaucrats would live to be 150 years
old.

Every few years,
a big-shot commission bemoans the disparity between public and private
sector work. It invariably concludes that bureaucrats need much
higher salaries and more benefits. Nonsense. If bureaucrats were
paid according to their net value to society, the result would be
mass exodus and the federal government would have to shut down.

For anyone
versed in free-market economics, the reasons for all this taxpayer
abuse are obvious. Unlike the private sector, the government is
not subject to the rigors of the profit and loss system. The government
can tax, print, and borrow money to meet its obligations. It can
pay millions of people salaries absurdly out of proportion, and
not be outcompeted.

Lacking the
discipline imposed by the market, the government cannot be efficient
by private-sector standards. It will never terminate or scale back
unnecessary functions on its own. So long as people are tricked
into thinking that government employees are sacrificing anything
for the public good, politicians won’t feel pressure to end it.

I have begun
in earnest to look for employment in the private sector. I have
to take a huge salary cut and give up those generous "bennies,"
but I will at least then contribute something to society. And at
least I’ll be able to live with myself.

June
15, 2009

Mr.
X "works" for the federal government.

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