the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

the Unseen Load of Government

Posted by Jeff Id on April 14, 2011

I’ve been trying to think of how to make this point.  The problem seems lost on the government educated of the US and despite starting to write it twice both posts came off as grumpy vents which isn’t what I was hoping.

E.M Smith has done a wonderful job explaining economics of the world and what it takes to make a successful economy, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Lesson of Egypt

Unfortunately, there are far too many who just expect the government to pull the right series of levers and all will be well when all that is needed is less levers.   My self snipped vents have taught me one thing – I am truly scared for our families over the next 50 years.

12 Responses to “the Unseen Load of Government”

  1. j ferguson said

    One of the most insidious effects of the loss of farming and manufacturing jobs and the simultaneous growth of government and other forms of employment isolated from the design and production of “things” is the loss of direct experience with the consequences of trying to fool mother nature. By this I mean, finding out that the thing you’d designed doesn’t work, the building falls down during a less than record snowfall, the pump-station floods during the first spring rain, the tractor won’t start, the nuclear generation station suffers under the second worst earthquake in history.

    If you don’t get the experience in which you can compare what you thought while you were devising something and then seeing what happens to it under test, most of your experience of the world remains abstract. You come to think that because you have no idea how to do something, maybe no one does. So you appeal to the government to protect you from the misdeeds of the people who are trying to invent and build new things. You put a burden on the backs of the only people who are actually creating wealth.

    For mostly obvious reasons the construction business, where i spent most of my career, is protected from outsourcing and automation. So there continues to be a lot of people in the business who have had the experience of their great idea turning out not to be so great in actual use.

    My point is that as the proportion of people in our society drops who have direct hands-on experience with physical planning and designing and the subsequent development and production, the more those not so involved will want to regulate. Regulation is a significant hidden cost in our economy. My feeling is that it is a cost largely inflicted by the increasing part of our economy that has never done anything except shuffle paper and watch the Evening News.

    I used to think that the world of Wells’ “Time Machine” which described the lives of the Eloi and the Morlocks is where we are headed, but for the time being, it appears that the Eloi are running things – or think they are – witness the madness in California with the 33% portion of power to be supplied by the wind and the willows by 2020.

  2. I share your concerns, Jeff.

    Before the Climategate scandal broke 2009, I had the uneasy feeling that misdeeds in the scientific community were directed from Washington, DC and designed to cause collapse of our Western economies.

    At a meeting in the National Academy of Sciences Building to celebrate 50 years of Space Science Research, in June 2008, I publicly asked (and later sent or gave written copies) the following questions of members of the Space Science Board, Dr. Ralph Ciscerone (the NAS President who chaired the meeting, and Congressman Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Chairman of the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee (the invited speaker:

    “Why did UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – and US federal research agencies like NASA, DOE, NOAA, NSF, etc. – work together to promote this web of mis-information:

    • CO2 from the tail pipes of Western economic engines caused global warming.

    • Earth’s climate is immune from the cyclic changes in sunspots and solar activity.

    • Hydrogen fusion in the Sun bathes planet Earth in a steady and unchanging flow of heat.

    • Solar neutrinos from Hydrogen-fusion in the Sun oscillate away before reaching our detectors.

    I do not understand the motives, but these actions damaged the reputation of space science and wrecked havoc on our economy by promoting the illusion of anthropologic global warming.

    Oliver K. Manuel
    Emeritus Professor
    Nuclear & Space Studies
    Former NASA PI for
    Apollo Lunar Samples”

  3. Scott B said

    I don’t quite agree with this one. Yes, all spending should be audited for results and adjusted accordingly. The argument that just because many graduates can’t find a job right now doesn’t mean that education was worthless though. These people now have a better base to find or create a job for themselves. In the case of Egypt, I’d argue that these kids’ ability to go to college and get educated is a primary reason why the revolution was mostly secular. In this case, I’d argue that the investment in education did help possibly fix the basic problem of a lack of freedom. They did exactly what they should do if they felt the previous government was failing in their responsibility to provide an environment where jobs were available.

    I think public investment in education is a net positive overall. There’s just a balance that needs to be met to set the right amount. Politicians can’t just continue to throw money down a hole. This is up to the people learning to get past the rhetoric that any cut in funding is hurting our children. That said, I wouldn’t be completely against getting the federal government out of the education business and making that a state responsibility. There would be some winners and losers due to a change like that, but it would increase innovation and allow us to find best practices quicker.

  4. Brian H said

    I haven’t seen anyone do a Peter Principle analysis of academia. I suspect it operates there in spades. With the result that all senior professors are incompetent.

  5. RB said

    Govt involvement in education is working out quite well for Singapore and Finland.

  6. kuhnkat said


    That is because they have realistic performance based standards. When the gubmint is busy teaching self worth and “it is good to be gay” or just warehousing, there isn’t much fundamental knowledge taught.

    “Imagine an educational system where children do not start school until they are 7, where spending is a paltry $5,000 a year per student, where there are no gifted programs and class sizes often approach 30. A prescription for failure, no doubt, in the eyes of many experts, but in this case a description of Finnish schools, which were recently ranked the world’s best.”

    Sounds like exactly the opposite of what we have in the US. Not throwing large amounts of cash at the schools means the teachers are probably interested in teaching and not a sinecure!! Probably a lot less waste and corruption also.

    “Boys, for example, perform much worse than girls in reading, and with so many wanting to become teachers, too few are willing to leap outside the social service sphere. ”We’re trying to get them to start their own businesses,” said Kirsi Lindroos, the national board of education’s director general.”

    Apparently they still have problems getting the students to be interested in business also!! Well educated still doesn’t mean useful to themselves and society.

  7. Chuck L said

    Matt Briggs, at his website,

    has a great article about another aspect of this issue.

  8. steveta_uk said

    Jeff, I strongly suspect (with no evidence, of course) that folk have been saying “I am truly scared for our families over the next 50 years” since language was invented.

    This is after all exactly the same mantra recited by the CAGW brigade, though of course for totally different reasons.

    As some young person recently said in response to the rich person who’s name escapes me (age is wonderful, in’t it?) “Why do you assume that the young of today cannot cope with problems in the future? We’re just as capable as you, if not more so”.

    The mystery to me is the world-wide attempt by every country to out-educate all others, leading to insane targets like Tony Blair’s wish to have a 50% graduation population. What on earth for?

  9. Geoff Sherrington said

    Jeff, Do try to read Ayn Rand again. “Atlas Shrugged” is 1200 pages of your theme, written pre-1975. Same problem, same lack of cures. No program known to me is able to guarantee that a particular country will always be on top of the heap, because of the impossibility of quantification of the group effects of human irrational behavior.

  10. AJStrata said

    See if this scratches your itch:

  11. I have the same, for my kids, how will they take on such loans as the feds have.


  12. Craig Loehle said

    J. Ferguson says it pretty well. It is not only that people who do not make or try to grow things want the government to protect them, but that they have little sense of what is possible or not, and thus often try, when given power, to do the impossible. For example, EPA has been trying to set drinking water standards to be cleaner than natural waters (such as those coming out of a wilderness), as if Evian were the natural state of water. A law has been passed in some city or state that the school system is now responsible for preventing bullying even when it occurs away from school and on the internet–and how are they supposed to accomplish this? There are many symbolic gestures about the environment etc that seem to be viewed as sufficient even though trivial or actually counterproductive, like recycling. We are becoming a nation of King Canutes.

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