Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Oh Happy Day Remembered

Today is the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, in which he declared that "in this present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem."

The Wall Street Journal reminisces.

Discussions - 15 Comments

Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy!

and government was such a serious problem that he had to be part of it for eight years

Yep, government’s the problem, all right. Until a pack of lunatics flies planes into the World Trade Center. Then we beg the government to listen in on our phone calls.

Hal and others:

I hope your comments are not meant as a serious critque. You know what sort of government programs Reagan thought were problematic--social programs. He most certaintly did not think military programs were problematic (as evidenced by his spending millions and millions on military weapons, etc.), and I doubt if any conservative does. Furthermore, there is a distinction in kind between government social programs and government military programs. Many private groups could run social programs, and probably with more efficency (especially since there would be fewer legal issues to worry about, or work around), but it is difficult for private groups to run defense and security programs because of the nature of the service provided (protection through killing and threat of killing). Curious enough, some private firms (mostly retail stores or shopping center lessors) ARE starting to create their own private police forces that patrol parking lots, looking for crime, because the modern state CANNOT provide protection, or even the apperance of security because so much money is diverted to nonprotection programs and only so much revune can be raised before political pressure results in lowering of taxes.

I suppose states could contract out their protection services, or military capability. This is one aspect of modern terrorism--Iran certaintly does it. It does make using force a lot easier because culpability is harder to trace, and when traced, politeness won’t allow accusing another country of doing it without 100% clear evidence, and because of that it results in my violence.

Tell you what: we can agree that government is the problem for US security and the like, we’ll contract the work out to various private groups, of course they won’t be bound by the constitution, and we’ll see if you are happier. I doubt if you will be.

Steve- I wonder seriously if you have it backwards. Companies tend to pay enough attention to the bottom line to know that war is much too expensive to consider as a viable pursuit. At the same time, I have watched the Charter School experiment with some interest in my area, and have found an interesting phenomenon. Slowly but surely, our neighborhood schools are being phased out, and replaced by temporary "enterprises" relatively free of oversight and bureaucracy which unfortunately disappear as quickly as the average fad restaurant.

I still cannot find a business that can deliver a letter from my house to my nephew in GA for 39 cents.

Also, when someone like Jack Abramoff brings the marketplace into the process of government, we turn to the government to analyse and remedy the situation.

As far as I can see, government is the problem only when viewed from the perspective of the fat cat wanting to get fatter at the expense of the individual. but then, perhaps you think individuals should be left to die in New Orleans, or in West Virginia coal mines, or in privately-owned tenements.

As for your idea regarding the use of private companies to support our "war" efforts, I think you owe Cheney and Halliburton a tip of the hat for that idea.


I will respond to a couple of your points:

1.The post office can deliver the letter from your house to the house in GA for 39 cents because it is subsidized. This means that the user of the service is not paying for its full cost, rather the cost the user does not pay is diffused throughout all taxpayers. This is why it is cheap, it is not cheap because it is more efficient than UPS or Fed Ex. Furthermore, even with subsidies the post office has to keep on raising its fee for use of its service. I think the post office is fine, I’m not opposed to it, especially in rural areas where it is not economical to have private companies, but do not pretend the post office is super efficient and that is why its services are so cheap.

2. I think charter schools will suceed in part because they do get around all kinds of expensive legal and quasi-legal costs. As long as they do not deal with teacher unions they will be able to offer a superior product at a cheaper price, although some of this cost reduction will come at the expensive of individual employees who do not have union protection. I suppose one has to make trade-offs.

3.I am certaintly not opposed to OSHA or anything like that. Often conservatives claim such things are not necessary, but it seems clear to me they are. In their absence people would be forced to rely on tort law for compensation. Monetary compensation can never truly compensate, and for some injuries (such as death) there is no possible compensation. Furthermore, corporations and individuals can go bankrupt to avoid such tort judgments, another reason why tort law is an inadequate protective force. Employers should be required to be safe through compulsion (law) because it is not in their economic interests to be as safe as they should be. Obviously there is an optimal level of such things though, because safety is expensive, and other countries (China-India) probably do not have as much safety, so it puts American workers at a disadvantage since their labor costs more. Another trade off.

Question for Steve.

The Democrat controlled Congress cut off resupply efforts and funding for the South Vietnamese armed forces, in their death struggle with the NVA.

Were those cutoffs done PRIOR to the NVA invasion, or was it during the invasion, while the issue was very much still up in the air.

The reason I ask is that I want to know if it’s legit to say that the Democrats were effectively urging the North Vietnamese leadership to get on with the job, and finish the South off, because they in Congress were cutting off any possibility of any type of American aid, be it actual air support, resupply, logistic, transport and financial.


I’ll want to doublecheck, but I believe Congress refused President Ford’s urgent request, made in a speech to a joint session of Congress in the spring of 1975, for an appropriation to aid South Vietnam while the NVA invasion was underway. So I think your characterization is correct.

Fung writes: "I still cannot find a business that can deliver a letter from my house to my nephew in GA for 39 cents."

Maybe that’s because it is illegal for any private company even to try. I know a company in Stockton, California, that years ago wanted to deliver internal mail to its branch office in nearby Modesto. The monopolist Post Office said they’d be in vilolation of the law.

Worse. When the FAX machine was first patented, the Post Office argued that it should be regulated--that FAX machines, because they could transmit mail, should aonly be located in Post Office, where you could go to send and receive FAXes (for a fee of course--higher than a FAX actually costs today--you can generally FAX up to five pages cheaper than you can mail it by the PO). Barron’s reported in this back in 1997.

Fung, do you really want to try that argument again?

Steve Hayward:

Thank you for reminding me that the post office is also a monopoly. I had forgotten that. Is that why UPS and Fed Ex can NEVER put packages IN the mailbox? It seems that always leave them on door steps, or between the door and the storm door, and so forth. Also, when I get the weekly packet full of advertising it is always on the doorstep as well.

You would think Congress would cut people a break and let people and companies put things in mailboxes, but I suppose the post office wishes to keep its absolute monopoly.

I am no economist, but I don’t think the Post Office conforms to the definition of a monopoly. As for putting things in mailboxes, would you like it if anyone could put anything in a public school? Or, in your letters? When the Post Office made its argument regarding FAX machines, did it succeed? Why not? What was the medium through which they were successfully challenged?

Yes, indeed, the Post Office is a legally protected monopoly. Just go out and offer to deliver mail at any price and see what happens to you. FedEx and UPS can deliver letters only through a package loophole in the postal regs.

According to the Barron’s article back in 1997 or 98 (I don’t have the article handy, but I recall it clearly), the Post Office made their argument that FAXes should fall under Post Office jurisdiction in comments to the FCC (during an official public comment period), which has purview over FAXes (like cell phones) because they are a telecommunications device. Since people could send letters by FAX, the PO thought they could claim jurisdiction. The FCC was not persuaded.

So, government was the solution??? Is not the FCC a part of the government?

Fung: You miss the point entirely. No private company would ever make the absurd argument that they should be given total power over a new technology--only the Post Office could offer such an argument with a straight face that doesn’t pass the laugh test. And what if the FCC had been filled with liberal, pro-regulatory commissioners? Then the PO might have got its way. The point is the voracious appetite of lazy government-protected enterprises like the PO (or substitute Fannie Mae if you like).

But then I’m still puzzling over your previous comment that you "don’t think the Post Office conforms to the definition of a monopoly." What, pray tell, is your definition of monopoly, when the Post Office has a legal guarantee that it gets to deliver 100 percent of all mail? Your undertsanding onf monopoly is apparently quite unusual.

Steve- Okay, I have to give on the definition of monopoly. I was thinking that it was more complicated than it is: (horizontal and vertical considerations, and such) but I was wrong. But, then you say:"No private company would ever make the absurd argument that they should be given total power over a new technology." What of IBM? Bill Gates? Rockefeller? AT&T? It seems to me that we owe resistance to their monopolozing tendencies to the government. Other companies try to fight them, but ultimately appeal to the government for a solution.

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