Sunday, October 25, 2009

How big government inadvertently stifles enterprise.

The other day I was listening to the Current, a CBC Radio morning program. The documentary segment was titled The Philosophy of Pig. The producer/narrator interviewed a woman, Barbara Schaefer from the Ottawa area who had lost her job as an environmental policy advisor for the Federal Government. Rather than look for another job in her field she chose to become a pig farmer, running her own business. As a farmer Ms. Schaefer breeds and raises a rare heritage variety called the Large Black Pig in as natural a way as possible. Recently she has expanded her operation to other rare heritage breeds of cattle, chickens and ducks. Now this may seem rather unlikely but Ms. Schaefer explained that she enjoys the active life of a farmer over the sedentary life of a policy wonk. So she’s happy and productive, and likely far more productive as a farmer than she was at her government desk job.

The point of this is; here is a very well educated person using her energy and wit to produce a product that would likely not exist, thus creating wealth for herself, her family and the surrounding community from which she buys and sells various products and services. As a government worker she was technically in the employ of the taxpayer. Her salary was taken from government revenue and added to the size of the government. Presumably her creativity and talent were directed at supporting government policies and while she may have produced good work for her department, what was produced likely added little to the gross domestic product of Canada. Now I don’t mean that her government work was useless, it may in fact have had great impact on government policy when and if it was implemented. But as a farmer her efforts are often immediately obvious and her product, if it can be eventually sold, fulfils basic human needs.

Take this individual and multiply her by thousands, there are thousands of well educated government workers whose talent and creativity have been removed from private enterprise so that they can manage, conduct, administer, advice, coordinate, control, regulate, oversee, well you get the picture; these people are not in the private domain, they are governing. Of course most of these people are grateful they have a job and their government job likely has good pay and good perks, and they may even provide a necessary service. The issue that I have is there are too many government employees in too many government departments for me to believe that all their talents are being used efficiently and effectively. I think government is far too big; of course that’s another issue.
Imagine the economic impact on Canada if just a few thousand of these clever individuals were in Ms. Schaefer’s position, that is, in the private sector, the part of the economy that actually adds wealth to the country rather than in government where budgets and salaries are taken from redistributed collected taxes. Imagine the new products, new services, new investments, and new jobs created; it’s all good. Big government not only diverts huge sums of money from the private domain, but also diverts entrepreneurial talent. That cost is almost incalculable.


  1. Everything you have said here is right on. In the so-called free world, our governments have too much control over private citizens. For example, I'm not allowed to make any money without telling the government about it. I'm not allowed to get married without telling the government about it. In some areas, I'm not allowed to ride a bike without wearing a helmet. You get the picture.

    The problem is, that most Canadians couldn't imagine living without socialized health care, and are fearful of an overly expensive public system such as the american system, and because of that the libertarian ideas can only gain so much traction.

    We are definitely better off than most places in the world, however, we still don't live in a free society otherwise I wouldn't need to let the government know how much money I make every year.

  2. Obviously, I couldn't agree more.
    The fact that you know this, leaves you with a moral obligation. Are you doing something about it? I'm trying, but as you suggest, traction is a problem and I often feel as though I'm spinning my wheels. Thanks for posting, I feel a bit better.


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