Today in the Globe and Mail, Neil Reynolds has a great column that demonstrates how governments grow. The article Civil service: Too many jobs, too little service should be mandatory reading for all elected officials, and come to think of it for all electors as well.
Reynolds describes an incident in the town of Orleans, a suburb of Ottawa, where a plastic cow on a roof seemed to contravene a bylaw and required hiring a consultant (at $20 000) as part of the "public consultation". The story is almost laughable if it were not for the fact that its true and it illustrates the bigger issue that the public sector this year is larger than the public sector last year. Not only does that cost us all more, but those individuals who "work" for government are not working in the private sector, therefore not creating wealth, not creating jobs and not adding to the productivity of Canada. Last October I wrote about how big government stifles enterprise and reduces productivity. Of course if government grows faster than the economy, government must be financed by borrowing against the future. These loans (usually bonds) become a larger fraction of our GDP, sometimes so large that they actually endanger investor confidence in Canada. Have a look at this page that compares GDP vs. National Debt by country. While Canada's debt to GDP ratio is over 62%, take a look at Zimbabwe: 241%! Which country would you rather invest in? While Canada might look good in comparison, government continues to grow and if you read Reynolds' article to the end, you will appreciate the irony in Jim Flaherty's recent budget. It's really no joke.