The Growing Epidemic of Useless Government

As government grows, so do our problems.

The trouble with government, P.J. O'Rourke once observed, is that nobody ever wants to say, "Stick a fork in it—it's done." In support of that thesis Virginia has recently provided Exhibits No. 3,487,912 and 3,487,913.

Exhibit No. 3,487,912: Last week, the state's congressional delegation—both senators and every congressman except Bobby Scott—wrote a letter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe urging him to set up a task force to address the "growing heroin epidemic in Virginia." Many localities, they note, "are on track to see double the number of heroin overdose deaths over last year."

Let's stipulate that any heroin overdose is horribly tragic and the ideal number of heroin users would be zero. That said, terms like "epidemic" and "double the number" obscure as much as they clarify. It's true that heroin deaths in Virginia have nearly doubled. They have risen from 101 (in 2011) to 197 (in 2013).

That's less than the number who died in 2012, the most recent year available, from intestinal infections (212); septicemia, or blood poisoning (1,305); pneumonia (1,275); kidney failure (1,501); or falling (646). Are these "epidemics" that require special task forces? If not, does heroin?

Local law enforcement isn't so sure. "We are not seeing as much heroin here," Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman told The Roanoke Times. Russell County Sheriff's Office deputy major Bill Watson said the same: Heroin "could be a problem, but it’s not a problem now." Oh.

A sudden growth in drug abuse might justify creating a new task force—if government were ignoring the problem. Is it? Not exactly. The U.S. spends more than $50 billion a year on the war on drugs. Washington has a Drug Control Agency, as well as an Office of National Drug Control Policy (the "drug czar"). And a National Institute on Drug Abuse. And a Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.

And plenty of other agencies dedicated to other issues that also fight in the war on drugs. The FBI's Organized Crime Division, for instance, necessarily deals with the illegal drug trade. The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency has a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, as well as an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. And so on.

Virginia has—well, let’s see: the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. The Governor's Substance Abuse Services Council. Drug courts, and their Virginia Drug Courts Association. The State Police and its Drug Enforcement Section, which includes GIANT—the Governor's Initiative Against Narcotics Trafficking. The State Police's drug enforcement section also participates in "22 multi-jurisdictional task forces throughout the state."

Virginia has 39 community services boards that offer help for drug users. The State Corporation Commission offers discounts on workers' comp premiums to employers that satisfy the requirements of the drug-free workplace program. The public schools have had a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program since 1985. The jails have jail-based substance abuse programs. The—

OK, you get the point. If this gargantuan drug-prevention apparatus has not put a dent in the recent "epidemic" and "doubling" of heroin use, then how likely is yet another task force to do so?

McAuliffe did not immediately respond to the congressional letter, other than to issue a pro forma, anti-heroin statement. But the day before, he did create—this is Exhibit No. 3,487,913—another government board: the Virginia Energy Council, which will "assist in the development and implementation of a cohesive, comprehensive, and aggressive energy strategy for Virginia and deliver recommendations for the Virginia Energy Plan, which will be submitted to the General Assembly on October 1, 2014."

Oh, good.

The Energy Council should not be confused with the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy—or the Secretariat of Commerce and Trade, or the Secretariat of Natural Resources, from which the Council will draw its staff. And though it is supposed to "accelerate the development and use of renewable energy resources," it probably won't do so through a program supporting property tax exemptions for solar energy systems, because Virginia already has one. It also isn't likely to propose the creation of a Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund, or a tax exemption for energy efficient buildings, or a Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program, or a green jobs tax credit—because Virginia already has all of those, too.

Virginia also has a local energy alliance program, an income-tax deduction for energy-efficient products (and a sales-tax holiday for some), a state loan program for renewable-energy equipment, a renewable-energy portfolio standard, a solar-resource development fund, and a variety of local energy-efficiency rebate programs.

If the Energy Council manages to think up some new energy policy or program, it will have to be jammed in the interstices between all the state’s other energy policies and programs. Not to mention all the federal ones, including the countless programs and mandates overseen by the Department of Energy and the EPA.

So what would adding a couple more boxes on the already enormous government organizational chart achieve, other than allowing a few politicos to add bullet points to the campaign brochures? Ask Chris Bailey of Lifehacker.com, who recently wrote about 10 lessons he learned after an intensive year of studying productivity. "Productivity isn’t about how much you produce," he wrote, "it's about how much you accomplish." That’s a lesson Virginia’s political class—and the nation's—has yet to learn.

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    NEEDZ MOAR MRAPS!

  • Almanian!||

    I see the skwerlz r back. One more try:

    Let's stipulate that any heroin overdose is horribly tragic and the ideal number of heroin users would be zero,

    No, I concede neither of these points. If Harry Reid or Seth McFarlane were to overdose on - anything - it would be wonderful and hilarious.

    And the "ideal" number of heroin users is "however many people want to."

    Also:

    A. Barton Hinkleheimerschmidt
    His name is my name, too!
    Whenever we go out
    people always shout,
    "There goes A. Barton Hinkleheimerschmidt!"
    LALALALALALALA.....

    FUCK YOU, REASON SWWERLZ!!!11!1one

  • Hyperion||

    set up a task force to address the "growing heroin epidemic in Virginia

    Shouldn't the question be: 'Where is the proof that government has ever done anything regarding drugs to improve the lives of the citizens that government is supposed to be so concerned about?'.

  • Almanian!||

    My questions now is always, "Where in the Constitution is power to do this enumerated?

    And then people respond, "Necessary and proper commerce clause primacy Executive Privilege more than 100 years old living document, because fuck you that's why!"

    I haz a sad...

  • sarcasmic||

    Rights are enumerated in the BoR. Powers are unenumerated and limited only by the enumerated rights.

  • Dr. Fronkensteen||

    I see you've read The Federalist paper no. 12

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Oddly, everyone agreed that the prohibition of alcohol required a constitutional amendment.

    How come precedent applies then we are getting fucked, but not it concerns the powers of government?

  • trshmnster the terrible||

    Because principles are for principled people, and nobody has accused a statist of any flavor of being principled.

  • sarcasmic||

    Oh they're principled alright. Might makes right is their guiding principle. They will hold a gun to your head and say two plus two equals five. At that point it might as well equal five, because the alternative is death.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

  • harleyrider1778||

    9th amendment

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people

  • John||

    Lets form a "task force" to deal with the problems of heroin overdoses. Then we will have that task force go out and try and make it as hard to sell heroin as possible. This then will give dealers the incentive to make their heroin as pure and potent as possible so they have to sell and smuggle less heroin and thus assume less risk of arrest to make a buck. The increased purity will then cause more people to overdose. Your government at work.

    The reason why our government is so "useless" is because he only knows one solution to any problem "more money, more laws, more bureaucrats and usually more people in jail". Our government always chooses the intuitive solution, which is nearly always spending more money and trying harder to control things. The idea that the solution to this problem or any other is something counter intuitive and might involve less control, like say stop harassing doctors so people go back to taking pain pills again rather than shooting heroin, or (gasp) legalizing the stuff so every person who uses it gets a known and safe dose, would never occur to them.

  • Almanian!||

    Bbbbut....but......drugs r BAD, John, mmkay! Always, and everywhere, for everyone!

    Why do you hate people, John?

  • Vampire||

    Wishing for what government ought to be, and what it has been throughout the history of governments are totally different. Many folks have been repeating the same nonsense like this: "if only they did this", or "if only the right people", or even "here's a piece of paper limiting them"

    over and over again. And the same results have occurred over and over again. Yet when they hear Libertarian Anarchy....CHAOS!!! ROADz!!!! PoLEEEEsE!!!

    Sorry, but the idea of a state, with a monopoly on violence, and folks voting for representatives which force individuals to work for the benefit of others through extortion (taxation)...which is slavery.....is downright chaotic, and ludicrous in itself.

  • Hyperion||

    "if only the right people"

    The collectivists, whatever they're calling themselves this week, have pretty much worn that one out.

  • Vampire||

    Lol. So have the minarchists........

    and even the monocleists. "If only they could take top down control of this monocle polishing business with national monocle care and manufacture".

    ---But the care and quality of monocles will diminish to the point where only privileged politicians will get the best monocles.

    Racist!!! monocle hater!!!!

  • John||

    There won't be chaos without government. People won't tolerate chaos. There will be order. It is just a question of who you want imposing that order. I will take an elected government thank you. You want to pretend that people will live in chaos or that order will not be imposed by someone, good luck with that.

  • Hyperion||

    The trick is restraining said elected government from becoming an overly bloated monster that consumes the entire society and destroys it from within. Given that this is such a difficult task, or even one that will always fail after so long of a time, maybe the only solution is the occasional reset.

  • John||

    Yes. The trick is to understand that government is a necessary evil. Passing laws and throwing people in jail is generally a horrible solution to a problem. It should only be used in the few cases where there are no other solutions available and the problem is so pressing that allowing it to go unsolved is not an option.

  • trshmnster the terrible||

    Much of your point is highlighted in this article I just came across.

    A Central Bank as a Menace to Liberty (1908)

  • Vampire||

    So if people are inherently "bad", then how does creating a government that centralizes power into the hands of a select few, therefore taking away the voices and regulation of millions of free individuals in a free market sound anywhere near rational or can be even thought to be a means of defending individual liberty?

    All such a monstrosity would do is make it easier for the bad people to force their will upon others, while maintaining standing armies and a police force to either threaten or use violence against individuals......oh damnit...that's already happened...... But if we only had that paper thingy.... :0P

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    All governments collapse upon themselves...given.

    This has been the freest nation ever to grace the earth. It lasted from 1791 to 1933 before starting its decline into statism.

    Your proposal will decline into oppression in a fraction of that time, simply because bad people exist.

    There will always be a last word in force. Question is, do you want that force to be contained (to the extent that is possible) and elected by the people, or do you want it uncontained and free to do anything it is physically capable of?

    A constitutional republic isn't perfect, and you will still need to reset it regularly, but it is better than anything else yet devised.

  • trshmnster the terrible||

    This has been the freest nation ever to grace the earth. It lasted from 1791 to 1933 1892 (arguably 1861) before starting its decline into statism.
  • trshmnster the terrible||

    1893*

  • sarcasmic||

    In addition let's make it so that people with a problem are stigmatized and in fear of having their children taken away and/or being put in prison if they seek help. This way their addiction can get worse to the point where they overdose. Yay government!

  • Hyperion||

    And don't forget, we need to extend punishment they received in the ass rape cage, during 'the cure', by making sure that they have a felony record and can never get a decent job ever again for the rest of their life. This new hope will make sure they never go back to drugs!

  • Hyperion||

    Letter from grateful heroin addict:

    'Dear government, thank you so much for saving me from a possible heroin overdose by sending a swat team to my house who broke down my door, trashed my house, shot my dog, and burned up my 1 year old's face with a flash grenade. Now I am in prison where I am ass raped every day. But at least I can't overdose on heroin in here.'

  • Almanian!||

    PWND

  • UnCivilServant||

    But at least I can't overdose on heroin in here

    Escept the guards sell to the inmates, so they can...

  • derpules||

    You win!

  • Vampire||

    Hahaha, my post said FU time stamp, I'm going on top.

  • np||

    The Growing Epidemic of Useless Government

    Arguably, even the most useless policies are useful to someone. But a growing government that does many "useful" things is even more worrisome.

  • R C Dean||

    Better comparison might include the number of deaths from car accidents, as using a car, like using heroin, is a choice. Even, if the state is to be believed, a privilege.

    I see that in 2011, there were 100 pedestrian fatalities, and 775 total fatalities.

    http://www.dmv.virginia.gov/sa.....cts_12.pdf

  • Hyperion||

    Yes, but the government is working hard to make our cars and highways safer.

    Drugs can never be made more safe, because drugs are bad! Mmkay? And the children!

  • Vampire||

    See, that is a problem. By you "taking an elected government", you are forcing others into slavery. At least individuals would have a chance to (among the many reasons) 1) defend themselves and their liberty, & 2) utilize their media of exchange and can either choose to fund or not fund something voluntarily.

    It's funny to hear folks complain about socialism, and point out how inefficient it is and requires violence in order to survive and what not......but all of the sudden it becomes magically efficient and non violent in regards to ROADZ, DEFenCe and so on. Govt and socialism isn't lucky charms, and they don't become magically anything but effing violent.

    The free market and natural order, and non aggression
    ......but wait!!! We need government cause now there is no such thing as a market, natural order, time preferences, and folks are incapable of choosing.and make bad decisions....so we need government!!! So those folks that are incapable of choosing and that make bad decisions can vote for folks that do the same and force others into slavery through extortion and violence.

    That's basically what your argument boils down to John. Just wish you'd get rid of the mini slavery part and become a libertarian anarchist. You'd have to hide behind the state to be anything different, and such a thing violates the NAP and the very definition of freedom and liberty.

    Just sayin...

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    We need government cause now there is no such thing as a market, natural order, time preferences, and folks are incapable of choosing.and make bad decisions.

    No.

    You need government because someone will always take your shit without it.

    PERIOD!

  • Vampire||

    No it is not period.government is designed to take your shit. To say that they are more capable at protecting your rights is nonsensical. They are incapable of doing so.

    Govt wishes to disarm individuals, hence their fear of "assault weapons". It is far easier to take the shit of an unarmed individual, than someone who has a weapon that is a force multiplier such as a tommy gun or AK.

    And to this: "Question is, do you want that force to be contained (to the extent that is possible) and elected by the people, or do you want it uncontained and free to do anything it is physically capable of?"

    Only if there was a piece of paper....Sorry, it is not contained, but like a fire consumes until there is nothing left. If you'd rather be a slave to some false sense of security, then by all means hire someone to dominate you, extort you and kill you if you do not pay up. But that ends with you. Why the need to enslave others?

    One cannot say they support freedom, and then in the next sentence say they support a violent state. That is contradictory. As to the quote, then you are saying free markets should not be free as there is a chance for theft, dispute, and conflict. Government, which is involuntary, needs to exist to make it perfect.....yet central planning is incapable of doing so as it removes the free voices and regulation from individuals in a market and removes the pricing mechanism along with it, along with creating legacy costs that never end.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    government is designed to take your shit

    Utter nonsense. That may be where it ends up, but not its function.

    Only if there was a piece of paper....Sorry, it is not contained

    You aren't listening. I agree with you. All government devolves into despotism. But it is/was contained longer than anarchism will be. I'm not arguing with your premise. I'm arguing with your solution.

  • Cis Shitlord||

    FINALLY! A correct, supportable use of the word "epidemic." Thank you.

  • Bean Counter||

    "The Growing Epidemic of Useless Government"

    I can't believe no-one has said this. Ok, here goes:

    IS THERE ANY OTHER KIND?

  • derpules||

    Can we please strike the word "epidemic" from our vernacular?

    And "begs the question" while we're at it.

  • Vampire||

    Continued:
    So how many are you willing to rob, beat up or kill in order to keep govt around? That's what will need to occur in order for anything other than voluntarism.

    If folks could volunteer to serve what many thought was defending freedom,( but instead were fighting for defense contractors and politicians) then why wouldn't we volunteer to defend free individuals and their property from aggression?

    What if the extortionists had to go door to door in order to collect taxes? Free armed individuals could repel such aggression, and the tools available are even better at doing so than yesteryear. Even those unable to use the tools could hire others to do so. In fact these developments only help to heighten the ability to defend their freedom.

    How many folks would want to continue going around bothering, robbing, abusing and even shooting folks and their dogs when they realize doing such things are not shielded by politicians and they would have to face the realization that they might wind up not making it home?

    So even the thought of a violent government, is only thought of because one doesn't have to go around kicking in doors to support such a false sense of security.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Free armed individuals could repel such aggression, and the tools available are even better at doing so than yesteryear.

    No...they can't. That's the point. There is always a bigger better armed extortionist.

    Your "group of like minded individuals" (i.e. a government) does not have the resources to fend off a nation state with tanks, planes and ships (not to mention nukes).

    Your model, in the short term, will eventually devolve to warring tribal factions (again, small governments). In the long term, it is only a matter of time before a nation-state decides it wants your shit, and then you're really fucked.

    SO you get government either way. Your way, that government rises up out of the need for protection. It is not elected and since all governments crave more power, will end up taking your shit without you having any say whatsoever. The constitutional republic takes your shit but at least gives you a say in the matter (for a while).

    Government is a necessary evil that must be constrained. When it becomes abusive (a given), it needs to be reset.

    This is what Franklin and Jefferson were talking about.

  • Vampire||

    You do not get government either way in a free society. You do get a chance at living freely, and if necessary defending your rights. Voluntary transactions do not exist with "government". It does exist between individuals, or large groups of individuals. Government is force. There is no way around it.

    If there is a need for protection, this can be done through the private production of defense. Shipping companies would acquire protection not from socialist means, but that of the market which is more effective and efficient than could ever be some dental used bureaucracy.

    Individuals are able to repel aggression against their liberty immediately. They do not have to "wait four years", or wait for folks to stop robbing them. The criminalization of defending against the aggression and violence of the state is what threatens liberty, and leads to its demise. Such actions occur because individuals are shielded from consequences of their desires and actions, while they hide behind the state and it police and standing armies that are not held accountable by a free market, but who are robots ready to inflict violence against anyone opposed to the state.

    Even in a constitutional republic, you don't have much of a choice. As almost immediately, as do all govts throughout history have done, they start taking away rights.

  • Vampire||

    Your argument about the necessity of the state, must then support socialism et al., as there is a belief that magically, it can do things the market cant. Such an argument is unfounded, as Mises destroyed the argument for socialism itself. The iidea that central planners could even operate efficiently in the absence of a market, is clearly absurd as there can be no efficiency when individuals are unable to mark things to market freely.

  • Vampire||

    "You aren't listening. I agree with you. All government devolves into despotism. But it is/was contained longer than anarchism will be. I'm not arguing with your premise. I'm arguing with your solution."

    This is a nice discussion. Had we been liberals we would have been lobbying to ban speech, and hide behind politicians as their robots move in to enforce the new law with violence if necessary.

    The solution (libertarian Anarchy) doesn't require violence and enslaving folks like what you are proposing is required. The very being of the state is violence. For if you own a piece of land, and I own a piece of land, but you have some friends and form a government....how are you going to make me pay taxes? If I say no, are you going to show up with a bunch of folks? Even in such a scenario, it is easier to trade then to go to war. Though you have numbers, I might have Phalanx CIWS's around my property. Now what bitch! :0) or there might be something so powerful that it is endgame for all. That is what the multiplication of the ability to project power does, and is an important tool to defend against aggression and protect liberty.

  • Vampire||

    A government results in forcing mainly peaceful folks to wind up defending themselves. Oh no, if we had no govt there would be armed individuals confiscating half our incomes!! This already happens. Taking the individual voices of millions and centralizing them into some sort of govt is really ludicrous and can only breed corruption.

    You mentioned Jefferson. Even he realized the logical conclusion of freedom and liberty was with the absence of government. That is why he said : “I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.” There are many things to look at. Gerard Casey dispels many of the minarchist/statist argumnts that support a state. As for defense, Hans-Herman Hoppe (along with many others) have great writings about the private production of defense. There is not enough room type all of this stuff here.

    You can not have freedom if there is a govt, only slavery. Why are you afraid of freedom? If you need some help I'll fight alongside you, and I can even teach you, but I have to charge. Cause my warrior spirit brings all the girls to the yard, and damn right it's better than yours.......plus my barbecuing skills and looks also top everything off. :0P

  • harleyrider1778||

    Taxation is Legal Theft. If we force the Federal Giant back to what its actual means were for getting funding were in place today. The Giant called the Federal government could never exist!

    It actually began with the CIVIL WAR,that war was over state rights and an over bearing federal government to those rights.

    Today its a war over not just states rights but to more extreme war on personal rights and the general liberties we all consider our rights!

  • Jimoxe||

    All those task forces do is provide a paycheck for useless bureaucrats.

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