As Good As It Gets

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

SSometimes you have moments — as in the movie — where your entire world can be upended by the words “What if this is as good as it gets?”

No, I don’t mean our situation. As we know from Trump’s administration — hampered and stymied as he often was — our lives can get much easier and much, much better.

But…. the competency of government in general.

I mean, there is something way more terrifying than “what if they are doing this on purpose?” and that is “What if a lot of it isn’t on purpose?” “What if this is their normal level of competency?” and for the crazier stuff: “What if they really thought this would work?”

Yesterday night, I was sitting in front of the computer, minding my own business, and Bill Reader called me. When he calls me after about 9 pm, it is never good. Either his job has gotten crazier, or he had some insight. And trust me, the insights are the absolute worst.

In this case it was an insight.


“Um…. yeah?”

“What would have happened if this formula shortage happened under Trump?”

“Well, the press would have been–“

“No, not that. We’d have assumed the regulators had screwed it up on purpose, to make him look bad, right?”

“Well, yes, but you know, we shouldn’t underestimate the fact that the Biden Junta want to hurt us and have a purpose of population reduction.”

“Maybe. I mean, it’s possible. The oil thing is certainly done on purpose, with the intent of making prices skyrocket, and some of that, at least for some of them, is surely about hurting us, but…”


“But I’m getting a whiff of terror and panic from them. Like the formula shortage? probably not really intended. The border? They didn’t expect it to be so NOTICEABLE and such a mess. The oil thing? They thought the prices would go up a little, and then renewables would magically step up and we’d realize how much better off we were. The empty shelves? We’d all suddenly realize we wanted to live like monks, and how happy we were.” Pause. “Listen to me for a minute, okay? What if this is the best their competency get? What if everything the government does, and has ever done is really a giant, unmitigated clusterf*ck? What if we hadn’t realized that, because, you know, the press wouldn’t report the f*ck ups?”

And I thought about it. Heck, in private companies, where you directly are responsible and suffer the consequences when something goes wrong, we know the Pareto principle applies, and 80% of employees are dead weight, if not actively harmful.

But when you sever performance from reward, as we’ve seen in oh, teaching, tenured professors, most publishing houses, and, oh, yeah, government work, then what the productive 20% seem to produce is insanity, if not actual destruction.

I mean — looks askance at 2020 — almost everything I directly know — hasn’t been spun through a friendly media — governments do has been counterproductive, or outright bad. I always sort of assumed they were doing it on purpose.

But what if they’re not?

What if it’s a weird mix of incompetence and really believing very hard in all the conspiracy theories, like “the oil companies prevent us from using the really cheap eco-magic solutions?”

What if when it comes to the things the government is supposed to do, this REALLY is as good as it gets?

In years past I’ve argued we should abolish all the scruff and cruft of non constitutional departments.

Department of energy, department of education, the FDA the CDC. And I’ve had people tell me that I wanted people to be poisoned by bad milk, or the like.

But think about it….

There is this “seafood mix” frozen that I used to buy, because it’s the cheapest way to make Portuguese seafood rice (you can still make it with cauliflower rice.) I’ve looked for the last year in every grocery store, and put it back, because you know…. “made in China.”

As someone pointed out, you know that the shrimp in China, are downstream from the cesspool, which is downstream from the place metal manufacturing dumps its effluvium, which is–

And before you say “But surely the FDA is testing those?”

Are they? Are they really? Then explain the pet food that killed cats and dogs, the medicine that we’ve found is often full of plaster or cement, the flip flops — FLIP FLOPS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD — that gave people contact chemical burns?

Or let’s talk about that emergency authorization for vaccines that aren’t quite vaccines, where the FDA, CDC and the lot of them are conspiring to hide adverse effects.

Again, let’s remember that Sinclair’s the Jungle was mostly fiction, designed to sell the idea of government control over food supply.

Let’s remember that these government appendages all of them, mostly hamstring American industry and building, and chase everything of significance off these shores, while putting everything, from our food and medical supplies, to our scientific research, to our very weapons, in the hands of countries that don’t have any of those naffy-naff scruples about not poisoning our public, or you know, having things not explode?

What if this government by bureaucracy has achieved its finest results? What if this is as good as it gets?

And please remember, we’re as efficient as it’s found in this world. Except for much smaller countries, and even there I’d look askance at government.

Look, guys, science, food supply, in fact anything relating to safety and well being, is way too important to leave in the hands of government.

What can’t go on, won’t. When things fall apart, if you don’t remember anything else, remember this: government is a blunt instrument, and it never worked very well.

It works worse the larger territory it covers.

It works worse the more power it’s given over increasingly smaller things.

It worked badly enough in the early industrial state, where everything was designed for mass production. It works much worse with the finer granularity that post-mass-industrial production allows.

We are allowing our society to be Gulliver hamstrung by Lilliputian bureaucrats.

Every totalitarian state functions less and less as time goes on. And every bureaucratic state becomes totalitarian through mission creep.

You cannot trust a giant bureaucracy to keep your food safe, to keep your water pure, to educate your children or to keep our army supplied.

FDR’s giant state is a delusion. Big is not more efficient, unless you’re building widgets in a giant widget factory.

Humans are not widgets. They’re unpredictable. They can’t be treated as widgets for anything significant.

When we do build over, build under, build around, remember: if you need government to coordinate, research and inspect, make it small, local government and keep it starved of funds and don’t give it excess power. Also, keep pitchforks on hand for when they get froggy.

As for the leviathan that not only doesn’t perform what it’s supposed to, but is actively harming us.

Remember that too.

Because for government with sufficient power to make things run efficiently, what we get is formula shortages, inability to build houses or bridges, and regulations that destroy everything.

It’s time for another model, worldwide.

And as always, America will have to invent it.

It’s time we got to it.