The Way Government Works

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What citizens assume government is doing and what government actually does are not the same. The most common use of government is that it serves as a place where people go to get what they want and have others pay for it. At any moment, activities within the halls of any government virtually all activity is devoted to that one activity. In totalitarian governments the question of who gets what is not open to open debate.  Still there are constant efforts to get next to  and suck up to a dictator or king. In democratic based systems there are constant efforts from all directions to try and live off the efforts of others.

Citizens, especially in the United States, treat government like a fair minded benevolent parent. President’s and elected representatives are imagined to be working tirelessly to promote their constituent’s principles.

It is not surprising that folks have this distorted image in their minds of what government really does. All through school, the benevolence of government is never questioned. In school, cooperation is presented as normal. Children work in groups. Competition is discouraged. All adults are defined as there to help them.

In practice, all persons who approach government out of self interest. Those elected and the voters are all motivated by self interest. Your senator or congress is there to get what he can for himself. Your president is not there to help you. Your president is there to help himself. Legislation is not passed for the benefit of the country. Legislation is passed for the benefit of those who have the money and power to influence elected officials.

An economic crisis is coming. What ordinary people do as a result will be critical. Unless people very quickly understand what government is used for, we are likely to come out worse off than ever after the crisis runs its course. It is a huge handicap to enter a period of severe stress and have people acting on the basis that government is benevolent and has magical powers. The reality gap we face is huge.

About Fantasy Free Economics

James Quillian is an independent scholar and economist.

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