Given that we are over-governed, over-regulated, and therefore grossly over-taxed, it is a cause of abiding wonder that so few of us recognise that the state is the enemy of the people, and that most taxation really is theft.
After almost fourteen years involvement in local government, I can categorically state that there is nothing that the state does that could not be done more efficiently by individuals or private groups. In fact, as soon as the state is involved, everyone within miles has their hand out and the price of everything from paper clips to ocean liners goes through the roof.
The cost of building prisons is a testament to that fact. During the last round of prison construction, the actual costs were five times the budgeted costs. It cost more to build a prison cell (some $8,000 per bunk) than it cost to build a five-star hotel room ($6,000 per room including gold-plated taps). In the civil service there is minimum accountability and maximum rorting!
The Chief Executives of public enterprises are paid according to the size of their operations and the number of staff they employ. Thus, although they must strenuously deny it, the objective of every chief executive is to increase staff numbers and revenue, and therefore increase his or her salary. Why would they not? The result is the opposite of the private sector where cost control and efficiency are the key to survival. And the result is a bloated inefficient public sector which is crippling our economy.
It is therefore the height of irony that any calls to cut the public sector spending are greeted with howls of protest, as the great unwashed confuse cost and numbers with results. This attitude is aided and encouraged by civil servants and politicians. It never ceases to amaze that politicians will say that they have increased spending on education by trillions and stand there smiling. There is no necessary connection between expenditure and results.
I once pointed out to an MP that I too had increased spending by building two new woolsheds and buying three more land rovers, but for some reason I had not made any more profit. He was not amused or impressed.
But what is most extraordinary is that the public doesn’t care and indeed appears uncomfortable with calls to reduce the criminal wastage that we call the civil service. Everyone I have ever met has a story of unbelievable duplication, waste, and stupidity in relation to the spending of our hard-earned tax dollar, but very view of them have any strong desire for reform.
This is the great New Zealand contradiction.
We know we are stuffed. We know we are falling behind Australia and everywhere else in the world because we are over-governed, over-taxed and over-regulated. We know our children are leaving in droves and not coming back because we are so hopeless. Yet we continue to ask for more money from the government to cure the very ills caused by excess government in the first place.
Perhaps the most graphic example of how totally inept our rulers are and how pathetically servile we are towards their ghastly ineptness is the case of the defunct hospitals littering the land. In the last twenty years the government has closed down hospitals at a great rate and for valid reasons – Napier, Waipukurau, Pukeora and Dannevirke in this area alone. These institutions were closed down and allowed to rot for years. The value they had was destroyed by neglect and vandalism. The government had years to plan a sensible and profitable way of de-commissioning them, but they rotted away … and still do. Finally, most were sold at knock down prices. All except Napier. The cost of failing to dispose of the Napier Hospital site runs into tens of millions.
Yet still in the face of such monumental incompetence by generations of politicians, we still believe that government spending is the way to save the nation.
And finally, when the government does do something vaguely worthwhile — like building a naval inshore fisheries patrol vessel — it doesn’t have a gun on it. If ever you needed a symbol of how sad we have become, it was lying in Napier Harbour last week. A brand new billion dollar dinky toy — smart as paint, goes like a rocket — but won’t do the job it is designed for because joe-at-the-ministry forgot that essential element that characterises all fighting forces the world over except ours … the gun on the front.
If I wasn’t in line for a council contract, I’d be tempted to do something about it.