© 2016 Jim Spence - We finish up our series highlighting the wisdom of Thomas Sowell with a brief discussion of two topics; environmental hogwash and government "budgeting."
Maybe three decades ago Kristi and I began to stow our empty aluminum cans in a large cardboard box in the garage. Every so often when we had accumulated seventy or more pounds of them we would take them down to the scrap metal company here in Las Cruces and sell them for cash. I remember a certain family member, a typical brainwashed Democrat who would always show up at Christmas and cram his empty aluminum cans into our trash bin under the sink instead of leaving them on the kitchen counter to be crushed and stowed in the cardboard box in the garage. We asked him repeatedly to just leave the cans on the counter, but it not seem to matter to him enough to remember that we saved aluminum.
A few years ago the City of Las Cruces decided to "save the planet" and require “mandatory recycling.” The rules did not apply only to aluminum, but to several other relatively worthless materials as well. Since we live outside the city limits, recycling is still optional. Essentially, in Las Cruces, as is the case with most places run by Democrats, the government requires citizens to do the sorting of raw materials for firms that take the contents of the recycle bins at the dump stations. We do not perform free sorting for raw materials firms. However we still keep our aluminum cans which WE get PAID to sort......when WE sell them. I ran across this quote by Thomas Sowell to explain the principle:
“Where recyling takes place only in response to political pressures and exhortations, it need not meet the test of being incrementally worth its incremental costs. Accordingly, studies of government-imposed recycling programs in the United States have shown that what they salvage is usually worth less than the cost of salvaging it.”
This same particular family member had some plastic or cardboard last Christmas and remarkably, he actually asked me where our recycle container was. I responded that we did not recycle worthless items, we only recycled aluminum. Of course by this stage of his life, this relative had finally been indoctrinated, not by us on aluminum, but by Democrats on "saving the planet." Accordingly, he now has no problem with government forcing citizens to sort raw materials of little value for raw materials companies that have a deal with the government. I made the assertion that if these companies really wanted my plastic and my cardboard they could get it out of my big container, but since they were not going to pay me, as the scrap metal company does, I was not about to sort for those practically worthless items for them free. “I am not an unpaid worker for a company that is savvy enough to con our local governments out of free raw materials,” I explained.
We argued back and forth before he ended the discussion by telling me I was stupid. In the interest of preserving some semblance of a pleasant holiday, I let the insult slide.
Let's explore government budgeting. New Mexico State University is dealing with a lengthy series of annual budget squeezes. As I read stories about this situation I am reminded of a incident one of my friends told me of. It seems he needed the use of a computer for a project one summer when his computer died. He went out to the journalism department at NMSU and asked if he could sit at a work station for a couple of hours and do his work. The NMSU employee pointed to a closet and directed him to a stack of brand new Apple computers still sitting in boxes unopened. When my friend asked for an explanation, the employee said, the previous year near the end of the fiscal year, the department had a bunch of money in its account, so the boss bought all of these computers. He said the boss did not want to have a surplus in the department account or the higher ups might cut the budget, so the boss ordered all those computers.
I have heard these types of stories about all sorts of departments in all sorts of government operations. It reminds me of this quote from Thomas Sowell that should help everyone understand how fat, bloated, and wasteful government is:
“Weighing benefits against costs is the way most people make decisions — and the way most businesses make decisions, if they want to stay in business. Only in government is any benefit, however small, considered to be worth any cost, however large.”
Nobody in their right mind would buy a bunch of computers that were not needed with their own money. But when you work for government and you talk about budgeting, it really helps if you are not in your right mind.