The futility of running to government

by Harry Browne

[This article appeared as a letter to the editor in the September 15, 1997, issue of National Review.]

National Review has produced excellent articles demonstrating the folly of relying on government. You've written eloquently that the War on Poverty is a massive failure and the insane War on Drugs is an enormous mistake. And yet, when the cloning of humans suddenly became a practical possibility, you immediately moved into a "government must stop this" mode ["The Week," June 30].

Why would you expect a War on Cloning to succeed any more than the War on Poverty or the War on Drugs? The former has expanded poverty, while the latter has elevated drug use and provoked the worst crime wave in American history. Given the government's record, a War on Cloning should lead to 9 Bill Clintons and 6 Al Gores. Just as a government War on Abortion should lead to men having abortions.

When you get the idea that government ought to do something, remember: you're talking about the same government that's been so inefficient, incompetent, and tyrannical in every other area. If you absolutely have to have a document across the country tomorrow morning, will you trust the Post Office with it? Does the busiest department store at Christmastime inconvenience you as much as traffic jams on government roads do all year round? Would you buy an annuity from an insurance company run like Social Security?

Well, that's the same government you ask to do your bidding whether to keep out immigrants, elevate family values, bring peace to Bosnia, operate the national parks, or protect us from bad medicines, cloning, and faulty products.

We should never forget the simple truth: government doesn't work. It doesn't matter whether a new program is supposed to achieve something you want or something you don't want. Government doesn't work, and no new program will work better than the failed programs of the past. It's the same government, the same politicians, the same attempt to achieve social ends by forcing people to do what they don't want to do.

Not everything in the free market works, but most things that survive do work while everything government touches turns out badly. So if you're opposed to poverty, drugs, cloning, abortion, or anything else, you'd better find a free-market way of dealing with it, because government will only disappoint you.