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Political Power, Government Employees and Inequality

March 29th, 2010

Christopher George responded to my semi-recent post about government employees being overpaid.

He argues that not every government job is a “complete waste” and notes (astutely, I might add) that the “‘private’ economy isn’t all that productive either.” OK, fine. But if they want to be productive in a free market, let them be productive in a free market. On the basis of their own supposition they don’t get a free pass to just sit back and say “Well, I suspect that my occupation would exist in a free market, so my hands are clean!”

Chris says I’m engaging in unnecessary class conflict when I call them leeches. I don’t know how else to accurately describe the vast majority of “public” employees whose occupations wouldn’t exist without the government’s interference, and who earn (on average) at least fifty percent more than a comparable “private” employees.

So, I mean, yes, you can pooh-pooh public employees because they survive off tax money, but there are those out there who do work hard and are still productive.

A bank robber “works” awfully hard, too. I’m not pooh-pooing public employees for their productivity (or a lack thereof), I’m pooh-poohing them for the means by which they acquire their income. Maybe this applies with some force to “private” employees, too.  I get the incentives at work here, (as in “a guy’s gotta eat) but Chris… you can’t say “Government employees aren’t the problem, it’s TEH SYSTEM!” You can’t just cast all the blame on some nebulous and intangible amalgamation called “political power” which doesn’t exist without the actions of men and women.

Where does “the system” come from? What (or who) enables and perpetuates it? Yes, the problem is the politically powerful vs. the politically weak, but the politically powerful just happen to be (for the most part) employed by the government.

I’m not saying that they’re the (as in “the only”) problem, I’m saying that they’re a problem. That they’re one very motivated, highly incentivized political class which contributes probably as much to inequality as any other factor.

Chris is right, that attacking the government employees (especially the lower-level ones) isn’t going to win me any friends. And it probably isn’t going to change any minds or make anyone see the proverbial light I’ve got plenty of constructive posts here, it just seems a little nitpicky to single out one of my “rants”). I never claimed to be an ambassador of goodwill, so if certain comments of mine come off as a little incendiary, that’s just the way its going to be.

But I don’t see this as an attack. I see it as a statement of fact.  If they object to my choice of language or descriptors, let them reflect as to why I’ve been so provoked.

Comments

3 Comments

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  • Chris says on: March 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm

     

    I just wanted to say that my post was definitely not meant to be solely about your post. I had intended to write something similar at some point, your post just brought it to the front of line. And it definitely wasn’t meant to be an attack on you or anything else.

  • David Z says on: March 29, 2010 at 2:10 pm

     

    Hi Chris – wasn’t taken as an attack, so don’t worry :)

  • JC Hewitt says on: March 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm

     

    I’m happy to keep the government workers relaxed with quantitative easing so long as we’re allowed to use alternate currencies.

    I mean, go for it, let them make their own zombie economy where they just kind of chill out, pass their dollars around, and whatever, so long as we can use others.

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