The people, accustomed to calling upon the state for everything, accuse the government, not of doing too much, but of not doing enough.

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Harmonies

Frédéric Bastiat explains the major issue related to public services, namely the disempowerment of individuals (replaced by the empowerment of the government as a substitute, without the responsibility being really taken by the individuals within government, as we have seen with the Contaminated Blood Scandal in France). Indeed, the law applying indiscriminately to everyone, does not leave much room for free will in receiving public services and does not allow for taking into account the diversity of individuals. Concerning services offered in exchange, these are taxes from which nobody can escape and that are imposed by force. The individual does not choose what to receive, nor what to pay. Let’s add to this the regulation that orders people to act in a way or another and one can see how responsibility and creativity are oppressed by public services.

Yet, one of the issue with responsibility (or lack thereof) is that it is self-fulfilling. This is what is reflected in today’s quote (which reminds me of the most famous quote from Bastiat) – give more responsibilities to somebody and he will want to get more but take away responsibilities from him and he will want to have none left. According to me, the reason for this is that the necessary decisions to act upon a responsibility often implies that a decision has been made upon another responsibility (this is one of life’s complexities). The more responsibilities I have, the more decisions belong to me but if I am denied some responsibilities, the decisions to be made are so constrained that they become a lesser evil that I may well prefer to endure rather than be responsible for.

When I encounter somebody who, without realising it, accuses the government of not doing enough rather than doing too much, I ask the following question: “Where is the Ministry for Little Shoes yet, without which the kids will end up walking barefoot on the streets?”

Other quotes from Private and Public Services:
Exchange – Value – Monopoly – Individual – Responsibility – Rights – Revolution – Ethics

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