Government Greed

One of the left's favorite targets is what they term "corporate greed."  Most of us know the term by another name, "maximizing profits."  Not surprisingly, it's what corporations do and for some reason, shareholders applaud the effort.  From the left's perspective, corporations exist to siphon money from "working class families" while willfully destroying the environment, bribing politicians, and causing wars for profit. 

The truth, of course, is that some corporations may break the law, but most, like citizens everywhere, generally act responsibly and legally.  Some even engage in public philanthropy.  At the least, they provide a product or service in exchange for remuneration of equal value.  Bear in mind that corporations are not, unlike the government, authorized to use force to ensure their product is utilized by the populace.  Nor do they forcibly divest citizens of their monetary income whether they like it or not.  Yet corporations are extremely powerful in that they produce a wide variety of goods and services that not only enrich our lives but actually make it possible to live.  People buy what corporations offer because it's in their best interests.  Corporations have what one might call economic power.

I have yet to hear any leftist complain about government greed.  It seems that politicians, regulators, bureaucrats and other "public servants" are thought to have altruistic motives.  From the left's perspective, however, public servants can easily become the sock puppets of greedy capitalists.  It's probably fair to say that, in an environment where government can tilt the competitive playing field towards favored clients, it pays to keep in touch with government officials.  In fact, it would be stupid not to.  And that's the problem.  Government can, through the use of taxes and regulations, transform the economic and financial landscape, so Washington crawls with an army of lobbyists and power brokers bent on battling competitors and winning an advantage not conferred by the marketplace.  Leftists want to solve the problem by restricting lobbyists or even nationalizing corporations.  But as long as the government is given license to intrude in the marketplace, there will always be those who try to manipulate that power for their own agendas.  The only real way to stop the abuse of government power is to limit government power.

So the main product of government is what one may call political power.  The government doesn't require anyone's voluntary participation.  It grabs what resources it needs, orders the populace to obey, and punishes those who don't.  In return, it promises to make life better, not only by ensuring that crime and foreign invaders do not become a nuisance, but also by installing a safety net under what surely must be a troubled, dysfunctional, incompetent, and stupid populace.  (In Europe, this was known as feudalism.)  Consequently, governments have created more dependents than any corporation could ever hope for.  Governments have slaughtered tens of millions of people under the name of creating a better society.  Governments have created economic woes that have driven millions of people to ruin.  And mostly, government, or more specifically, politicians and bureaucrats, have consistently demonstrated unseemly greed.

Government greed results in government expansion, not just in terms of agencies and bureaucratic positions created, but in terms of power over the citizenry's lives and economic activities.  Power is the currency of government and grasping for power is what keeps the machinery of government in motion.  Naturally, money is required to fuel the expansion.  To that end, government has come to the point where the citizen's money is regarded as belonging to the government, who will then decide how much to let you keep.  That's why politicians claim that cutting taxes robs the government of its revenue.  Of course, raising taxes is not seen as robbing taxpayers of their revenue. 

When the Bush administration found it had an actual budgetary surplus, it proposed a tax cut to return the excess money to the people whose pockets were picked to provide it.   Some on the left objected, saying the tax cut was going to the rich, who are, naturally, undeserving, despite it being the rich who actually paid the taxes to begin with.  These modern Robin Hood's wanted the money taken from the rich to be given to the "middle class", as if it's government's job to rob Peter to pay Paul.  Others on the left objected to any tax revenue being returned to the taxpayers since there were so many ways the government could use the funds for "social needs."  And that, of course, is greedy.  If you want money you didn't earn for your own purposes, that's greedy.  If you want to expand your programs and the bureaucracies needed to administer them, then that's greedy.  It is, after all, bureaucrats who see their empires expand that benefit.

Consider the case of the housing price bubble.  As housing prices boomed, most homeowners could not realize a profit unless they sold the house or tapped into the rising equity.  Not so the government.  As assessments rose, so did the property tax.  It didn't matter if a homeowner realized no profit from the rise in equity.  The government raised the property taxes on the home anyway.  You might say the government benefited from a windfall profit.  Of course, the housing bubble burst, but have property taxes decreased?  Or has government decided they "need" the extra money to meet the inflated expenses they deliberately incurred when a larger revenue stream was pouring in? 

The difference between corporate greed and government greed is that corporations depend on providing a quality good or service that you voluntarily purchase.  To make more money, a corporation has to satisfy more of your wants and needs while keeping costs low.  If it can't deliver a decent product, some other corporation will.  The government, on the other hand, may or may not deliver a product worth the taxes taken to pay for it.  Nor does the government have to ask you to buy their product.  It's mandatory.  And if the government fails to deliver, there is no other government you can go to instead.  It's a greedy monopoly that even a leftist should be able to recognize.  


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