“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ yet you fail to notice my baseball bat upside your head?”
According to George W. Bush, “When somebody hurts, government has got to move.” Doesn’t that make you cringe? It seems that whenever the government moves, somebody gets hurt or even squashed.
- I’M FROM THE GOVERNMENT - I’M HERE TO HELP YOU
What is “moral hazard?”
Government programs often cause perverse and unintended consequences by creating “moral hazard.” This term refers to the fact that insulating a person from the consequences of risk may have bad results. The person may behave differently from the way the person would behave if fully exposed to that risk. Here’s a familiar example: If you insulate people from the consequences of taking financial risks, they may behave recklessly and borrow or loan money for home mortgages which can’t be paid back.
I know you’re tired of hearing about government screw ups, but here are some outrageous government sponsored moral hazards I bet you haven’t heard about. They all involve our health care system.
In 2005 it was discovered that in 14 states Medicaid was paying for Viagra for sex offenders. In another example, in 1994 it was discovered that in many states Medicaid paid for infertility treatment for welfare mothers.
Wow! That (fill in the blank) program didn’t work out as well as we thought it would!
Of course, bureaucrats and politicians were shocked, SHOCKED, to find that Medicaid was paying for Viagra for rapists and infertility treatment for welfare mothers. But isn’t that the point? Don’t these social engineering programs often cause negative, unintended consequences?
I’m having a crack attack, so give me my government check
Hospitalizations from cocaine abuse peak after checks are issued
Here’s another one. In a study of veterans with schizophrenia published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1994, researchers found that cocaine abuse and hospitalizations secondary to cocaine abuse increased at the beginning of each month when disability checks were issued, cashed and, presumably, used to buy cocaine. In fact, cocaine abuse and cocaine-related hospitalizations decreased towards the end of the month but then began to increase again just before the first of each month when the checks are issued. This suggests that drug dealers considered recipients of government checks good credit risks (”full faith and credit”).
Of course, members of Congress were shocked, SHOCKED, to discover this. They promptly set about “fixing” a problem they created in the first place. Doesn’t that remind you of OJ searching for the real killer or Barney Frank suddenly claiming to have a tight sphincter (which medical experts know, on the contrary, to be hard used, gaping and patulous) about finding the cause of the current financial meltdown?
In another study, using data from computerized death certificates for the entire US, researchers found that there were more deaths in the first week of the month from substance abuse. Suicides, homicides, and deaths from accidents, all often related to substance abuse, were also more frequent in the first week of the month. Of course, it’s impossible for this study to prove that drugs and alcohol bought with government money caused the increase in deaths at the beginning of each month. But doesn’t it seem like an explanation worth considering?
Got our checks this morning. Spanish Eddy was here an hour ago. Gotta piece of the rock, things are very smooth now…
In fact, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, government checks fuel the drug culture. According to this report, “Mother’s day takes place early each month. It’s the day when welfare checks arrive - a day when drug dealers know the extra money means more drug sales.” (LA Times 7/8/99)
Is Uncle Sam failing upward?
Even though the federal government has wrecked our economy and almost everything else it has touched, many Americans want to let the feds work their magic on our health care system. In fact, our government seems to be following that uniquely American trajectory, “failing upward.” In Andrew Ferguson’s memorable essay “McNamara’s Brand,” failing upward refers to America’s curious tolerance, even friendliness, especially in politics, towards those who fail.
Where’s Bob McNamara when we need him to really louse things up?
Ferguson’s cardinal example of failing upward is the career of Robert McNamara, probably best remembered as President Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. McNamara consecutively screwed up the Ford Motor Company, the Vietnam War, and the World Bank, with promotions following each disaster.
Ferguson aptly depicts failing upward with the workaday example of the unbearable houseguest:
Imagine a friend who comes to visit. The first night he cooks you dinner and sets fire to the kitchen. The next morning he accidentally electrocutes the cat. He blows his nose in the curtains and never flushes the toilet. He borrows your car and drives through the garage door, then spreads a rare contagion to your kids. By the third day you make the decision: You ask him to move in with you.
I’m tired of chewing my own food. Can’t the government do it for me?
Many people seem to believe that no difficulty is too large or too small for the government to fix. But isn’t it absurd to look to the government to solve our personal economic problems, end tyranny throughout the world, and heal the sick, to mention just a few unrealistic expectations?
Isn’t it time for some personal responsibility?
We once looked to our own personal resources, or to our religious communities and families to try to meet our needs. With those institutions on the wane, many people seem to have developed utopian expectations of a flawed, often ineffective institution - government, which Thomas Paine described as “at best, a necessary evil, at worst, an intolerable one.”