Monday, March 07, 2005

Can you please send the fire truck to get my cat out of the tree?

Question: Why has government become so intrusive?
Answer: Because we have asked for that.

On the drive to work today, I heard an ABC news report about the impending rise in gasoline prices. The report talked about how prices have recently started rising again and how the seasonal increase in demand would only drive prices higher. Kudos for the fact that the report was balanced enough to mention the increased demand from China and India as additional factors in the increased price (though the first stated cause was "the war on terror"). Raspberries for the fact that they aired a statement from a woman wanting "the government to do something" because she was being "hurt and it's an important item."

So what should be done? Should our elected officials dip into our “strategic reserves” in order to bolster the supply for short term relief? Or maybe they should impose stringent prices controls to artificially drive down prices and reduce the competition to a few select oil companies. Or maybe (my favorite) we should invade several oil rich countries and turn their oil reserves into a state run supply system that will surely be able to produce oil solely for US consumption at greatly reduces prices. These are the types of options that are open to government. Or maybe the best option is to realize that oil prices are a simple function of supply and demand. If we reduce our demand the price will go down. The real solution to the problem is in our hands, not the government’s.

Please remember that I work in local government. I cannot count the number of times that citizens have stood at the podium and asked for my bosses, the elected leaders of our city, to "do something" about a problem that really shouldn't be a function of government. Sometimes the result is “only” another ordinance or regulation added to the books (which adds to the cost of government). Sometimes they payoff an individual (ostensibly to “compensate for the hassle”) to make them go away. But sometimes they determine that the only way to solve the problem is to raise taxes to create a program or system dedicated to that problem.

I really cannot blame our elected officials. These solutions are not the result of power hungry officials. They are instead reasonable and thoughtfully considered answers to problems that seem to be important to their constituents. These men and women were elected on a promise to implement the will of the citizens. Implementing those desires is exactly what they are doing. We are just getting what we asked for.