The road to hell has many subcontractors
Russ Roberts of George Mason University hits the nail on the head with a thought-proving piece that identifies an intrinsic issue that arises when government moves to increase its role in the daily lives of its citizenry.
Writing at Café Hayek, Roberts pinpoints the inherent problem as one of motives versus results.
Those within the government may seek to do good through enhanced regulation and many may truly believe they are indeed doing good so, but the simple fact is that government is nearly always operated by those who can’t possibly have knowledge or information regarding the “needs, desires or dreams” of the average individual, Roberts states.
Government, therefore, is basing its decisions on an imperfect understanding of the lives of those it seeks to further regulate.
In fairness, Roberts adds, government officials can’t be expected to know the dreams, desires and needs of each and every individual. In many cases, a single person’s friends and family don’t even fully have such an understanding.
The real difficulty arises when government busybodies couch efforts to regulate the lives of its citizenry as an exercise in virtue.
“They claim to know what is best for others – what they should eat, how they should behave in the bedroom, whether they purchase health insurance, and what is the best use of other people’s money,” Roberts writes. “When these plans go awry, when they cause harm to those they would help, they fall back on their motives – after all, they meant well.”
Roberts is of the school that it is better, more often than not, to leave things alone rather than to intervene. He compares public policy to parenting:
“Sometimes good parenting means letting children make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Sometimes it means letting children come to grips with responsibility. So we teach our children to drive and let them take the car. We know it’s dangerous but we accept the risk. We do so not because we do not care about our children. It’s just the opposite. We accept the risk because we care about them. We respect them. We want them to leave the nest and learn to fly on their own.”
Contrary to what opponents may claim, not every argument against the minimum wage or government schools or agricultural price supports or bank bailouts or mandatory health insurance is based on selfishness or greed.
“Rather it comes from respect for my fellow human beings and a belief (not a faith) that leaving people free to choose what is best for themselves usually works out better than strangers making decisions for them,” Roberts writes.