Saturday, January 14, 2006


Government is the problem not the solution: "In all times and in all places there has been too much government. We now know what prosperity is: it is the gradual extension of the division of labour through the free exchange of goods and ideas, and the consequent introduction of efficiencies by the invention of new technologies. This is the process that has given us health, wealth and wisdom on a scale unimagined by our ancestors. It not only raises material standards of living, it also fuels social integration, fairness and charity. It has never failed yet. No society has grown poorer or more unequal through trade, exchange and invention. Think of pre-Ming as opposed to Ming China, seventeenth century Holland as opposed to imperial Spain, eighteenth century England as opposed to Louis XIV's France, twentieth century America as opposed to Stalin's Russia, or post-war Japan, Hong Kong and Korea as opposed to Ghana, Cuba and Argentina. Think of the Phoenicians as opposed to the Egyptians, Athens as opposed to Sparta, the Hanseatic League as opposed to the Roman Empire. In every case, weak or decentralised government, but strong free trade led to surges in prosperity for all, whereas strong, central government led to parasitic, tax-fed officialdom, a stifling of innovation, relative economic decline and usually war".

Your government will protect you (1): "A jumbo jet that had lost an engine and was losing power in the other three was diverted over Central London, putting hundreds of lives at risk on the ground, an investigation has found. The crew were "fortunate" that there was good visibility because in low cloud "the aircraft might have landed well short of the runway", according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). It ordered the Civil Aviation Authority to carry out an urgent review of the guidance given to air traffic controllers on diverting aircraft in emergencies over densely populated areas".

Your government will protect you (2): "An e-mail that showed up in my inbox the other day contained a photograph of the modern floodgates that keep Venice from being inundated by the Adriatic Sea. Below it was a picture of Holland's high-tech dams, which rise as much as 40 feet above the waves that perpetually threaten the Dutch. A third photo showed London's futuristic-looking flood barriers, a series of semicircular silver gates along the Thames that can be raised or lowered as needed to regulate tidal heaves surging up from the North Sea. Following these images of impressive European flood control technology came a picture from New Orleans. It showed a section of a broken, low-tech, decidedly unimpressive concrete levee surrounded by water, presumably taken in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Sneered an accompanying message: "Way to go, Corps of Engineers!" Whether it is fair to compare New Orleans's flood-control system with Europe's, or whether those European barriers are as effective as they are photogenic, I don't have the expertise to judge. Nonetheless, that e-mail is a good reminder of a key truth about the Katrina disaster: It was mostly the result of government failure".

Government failure even in a rich and moralistic Islamic society: "Twenty years ago, Shobokshi told me, Jeddah had been provided with the money to build a modern sewage system that would accommodate the fast-growing city. The government official in charge of the project, however, took the money and built himself a mansion in San Francisco and a palace in Jeddah that is equipped with a discothSque and a bowling alley. As a result, Shobokshi said, the streets in Jeddah are constantly filled with tanker trucks to drain the city's cesspools. Worse, sewage has got mixed into Jeddah's groundwater, and this has contaminated drinking water in many parts of the city. "We have new diseases of the eye and skin that didn't exist here ten years ago," Shobokshi said. "Lung and breast cancers are forty per cent above the national rate. Hepatitis is so high that it has to be classified as an epidemic".


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