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Website owner:  James Miller


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Facts of Life

   There are a number of facts of life that govern much in this 
   world.  One of the things that seem to underlie much of the 
   difference between liberals and conservatives is that 
   conservatives seem to have a firm grasp on these basic facts of 
   life and the liberals just don't seem to.   The liberals seem 
   possessed of a certain idealistic naivete, a certain mental 
   shortness, in this area.  Maybe they have just spent too much 
   time reading romantic literature and gotten their minds muddled 
   (like Don Quixote).  Anyway, we will illustrate some of these 
   basic facts of life with a few examples:

   India has a problem with teachers in their public schools not 
   showing up in the classrooms a large part of the time.  The 
   students show up but no teacher appears.  On any given day 
   across India about a quarter of the teachers fail to turn up 
   for their jobs (according to a study sponsored by the British 
   government).  A teacher may show up in his classroom only two 
   or three days a week and then stay there for only a couple of 
   hours and then leave, making a kind of token appearance.  
   Mexico has the same problem.  Probably many third world 
   countries have the problem.  How can this be?  That is simple.  
   The teachers have learned they can get away with it and so they 
   do it.  They know the limits to which they can go and they go 
   as far as they can.  The problem is supervision.  No 
   supervision.  The government pays them and trusts them.  It is 
   an example of an inefficient, half-working government program.  
   There is a proverb from Ben Franklin's almanac, "Not to oversee 
   workmen is to leave them your purse open".  To devise programs 
   that really work as intended one must keep in mind certain 
   basic facts of life.  One of those facts is that in every 
   society, every culture, every age, a large portion of humanity, 
   given the opportunity, will lie, cheat and steal.  If no one is 
   watching they will test the limits and go as far as they can.  
   One is a fool who just trusts people, puts them on an honor 
   system. 

   Let us look at another example.  Why does capitalism work so 
   much better than socialism?  Private enterprise works.  
   Socialism doesn't.  Why?  To understand why one must understand 
   certain basic facts of life in regard to human nature.  One 
   must understand how people think and what motivates them.  At 
   bottom it is all about incentive.  A man who owns his own 
   business has an incentive to make the business work.  If it 
   works he can get rich.  If it doesn't he can end up in the 
   streets.  So there is a real incentive for him to make it work.  
   If he has people working for him there is an incentive for him 
   to watch them carefully and make sure they are doing what they 
   are supposed to be doing.  If they are not doing their job he 
   loses.  He has to be practical and pragmatic.  If one thing 
   doesn't work he has to try another.  He can't afford the luxury 
   of idealistic, impractical ideas that don't work.  He has a 
   strong incentive to find ways to cut out waste and increase 
   efficiency.  Efficiency is money in his pocket and may mean the 
   difference between being able to compete in the marketplace and 
   not being able to compete.  He has an incentive to be inventive 
   and think of better ways of doing a thing.  It is all about 
   money and that motivates him.  He will put in an 18 hour day 
   and work really hard to make it all work.  He is motivated.  
   Now compare this man with some government worker under a 
   socialistic type system.  What are his incentives to work 
   really hard?  He will get his salary whether he works hard or 
   not.  What incentive is there for him to make the operation 
   more efficient?  Why should he care?  What incentive does he 
   have to be creative and inventive and improve the operation?  
   He is working for some boss that he may not like in a system 
   that just doesn't work very well.  It is all like a man who has 
   a small plot on which he raises vegetables that he sells in the 
   city market.  It is his lot and his business and he works hard 
   to raise the best possible vegetables.  There is an incentive 
   for him to do well and make it work.  Compare him with a worker 
   on a collective farm raising vegetables for the government.  
   What is his incentive for working hard?  It is a basic fact of 
   life:  People will work really hard for their own gain but 
   won't work any harder than they have to for someone else's 
   gain.  Private ownership inspires people to work.  If a man 
   owns his own house he will work hard to maintain it and improve 
   it.  He takes pride in it.  But if he is living in someone 
   else's house he doesn't care a whit about it.  And so an 
   economy based on private ownership and private enterprise just 
   functions far more efficiently than one based on socialistic 
   ideals. 

   Another example.  Let us go to another question:  Why is it 
   that government programs are so often inefficient, ill-
   conceived, don't work as they are supposed to, don't give much 
   for the money spent on them?  The reasons are various.  One is 
   lack of penalty to those responsible for them when they don't 
   work.  There isn't that strong incentive to make them work that 
   there is with the owner of a business to make the business 
   work.  Another reason has to do with another fact of life:  No 
   man takes the same care with other people's money that he does 
   with his own money.  If a man is spending his own money he is 
   concerned with how much he gets for his money; if he is 
   spending another person's money he doesn't worry much about it.  
   And remember that legislators, elected officials and 
   bureaucrats are all spending other people's money (your money), 
   not their own.  It is easy for them to come up with lots of 
   great sounding, idealistic ideas (that don't work) for spending 
   other people's money.  They just implement the ideas in the 
   form of programs and take more money out of your paycheck in 
   the form of taxes to pay for them.  If the programs give little 
   for the money spent it is not their money that was wasted, just 
   yours.  They can come up with wonderful sounding, simplistic, 
   politically motivated programs (that don't work) for difficult, 
   intractable problems and the only loser is the taxpayer.  An 
   example is the welfare system.  Anyone with sense knows that 
   when you start giving away free room and board to people there 
   will be all kinds of people getting in line for it, all kinds 
   figuring and scheming on how to get it.  That just comes down 
   to a couple more facts of life:  1. When you offer free things 
   everyone will get in line, and  2. No one really likes to work 
   and everyone would love to be relieved of the burden.  It is 
   all just human nature.  People very quickly accept free 
   room and board, acclimate very easily to a parasitic existence, 
   even come to believe they are entitled to it all, and leave it 
   only when forced from it.

   One of the most basic facts of life is the following:  People 
   act in their own self-interest and the only person you can 
   trust to act in your interest is you.  You must tend to your 
   own business, look out after your own interests in life.  It is 
   a foolish and naive person who places his interests in 
   another's care.  It suggests a couple more of Ben Franklin's 
   proverbs: "If you would have a faithful servant and one that 
   you like  --- serve yourself" and "If you would have your 
   business done, go; if not, send".  That is just the way this 
   world works.  Everyone looks to his own interests.  Everyone 
   takes care of himself and those who are important to him.  The 
   legislator who is busy spending your money has his own 
   interests to tend to: he wants to retain his job, he wants 
   votes, and all these new programs he is so busy creating may 
   bring him votes.  Certain segments of our population will vote 
   for anyone offering free handouts.


   July 2004




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