Friday Night Video: An Education in Debt
The Independent Institute has produced a 5-video series called “Love Gov.” It’s a series of humorous skits in which the government is personified. I’ve seen only the first but it’s excellent.
It also hits one of co-blogger Bryan Caplan’s main themes: about the value or absence of value in going to college.
My comments follow the video below.
What I like about the series so far is the whole idea of personifying government. Indeed it reminds me of something I wrote in The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey:
We have had government needling us and interfering with and threatening us for the whole of our lives, starting, for most of us, from the time we hit kindergarten, letting up some when we graduate from high school, and then eating away at us day to day for the rest of our lives. So we become oblivious to it–it just seems like the way things are. But a recent Candid Camera skit reminded me of how really outrageous the government is. In the skit, a waitress told people who ordered a dish on the menu that they couldn’t have it because it wasn’t good for them. Instead, she’d bring what she thought was good for them. People got very incensed about it. Many of them defended their right to order what they wished and got up angrily to walk out. It’s the most animated I’ve ever seen real, everyday people in defending their rights. Virtually everyone in the episode felt the same way: “How dare this waitress tell me what I can order, what kinds of goods I can ingest in my body, and how to spend my money on food!”
But guess what. Government acts like that waitress all the time. Government often intervenes in annoying ways that are none of their business. It prevents us from buying cheap oranges that might look a little blemished, but are perfectly safe. It also is currently trying to rig the rules so that almost the only kind of cheese we’ll be able to eat is processed American cheese. As my late friend Roy Childs pointed out, government is incredibly petty, threatening us with fines and even prison sentences for doing things just a little different from the way some anonymous government official wants it. Government routinely makes even bigger decisions for us, from how we save for our retirement, to what kinds of changes we can make to our houses, to what kinds of prescription drugs we may take. Government, by and large, is full of strangers who often have little expertise in the areas they regulate and have virtually no knowledge of your particular goals, interests, capabilities, or concerns. Nor do most government officials even care about these things. Government is like the waitress, but with this crucial difference: The waitress was an actress, and her “victims” could easily leave the restaurant; the government is all too real and insists on controlling us as long as we stay in the country.