Are You a Guard?

In Chapter 24 of A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn writes:

In a highly developed society, the Establishment cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbage men and firemen. These people-the employed, the somewhat privileged-are drawn into alliance with the elite. They become the guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes. If they stop obeying, the system falls.

This would be very insightful if Zinn wasn’t so hell bent on pushing a version of morality where the only moral society is one that shares everything in common.  There are very few real socialists and communists around because the failures of this philosophy are so great.  Few people are really looking for a worker’s paradise anymore. Very few people think that human nature is compatible with such philosophies.  Unfortunately, even though people know people are motivated by self-interest, the ideas of socialism and communism are still looked to as an ideal of what is actually fair.  Since we humans are so self-interested, it is up to our moral superiors, who understand that we must all share for justice to occur, to use the hammer of the state to beat us all into compliance.

They, the people I have called our moral superiors, don’t share Zinn’s vision.  Zinn sees the establishment and the elite using the central government to keep people from realizing a better way of life.  He sees starting at the local level as the solution.

The great problem would be to work out a way of accomplishing this without a centralized bureaucracy, using not the incentives of prison and punishment, but those incentives of cooperation which spring from natural human desires, which in the past have been used by the state in times of war, but also by social movements that gave hints of how people might behave in different conditions. Decisions would be made by small groups of people in their workplaces, their neighborhoods-a network of cooperatives, in communication with one another, a neighborly socialism avoiding the class hierarchies of capitalism and the harsh dictatorships that have taken the name “socialist.”

The current progressive/liberal thinking is that change must be top down, and that we need laws at the federal level to make sure people are treated fairly.  I like Zinn a whole lot better than these people, even if I don’t agree with his socialist vision.  These top down people, these big government people, they are the guards of the crony capitalist system that lefties and libertarians decry as unjust, even as we disagree as to why we believe the system is unjust.

Hassle With the State Apparatus

It is just a little thing that happened, but I think it is an excellent example of regulation, crony capitalism, wasted time, and wasted resources.

Every year, as bookkeeper of my church, I take care of getting a license for our lift.  I’ve been doing this for 3 years now, and we pay our money and we get a certificate in the mail to display that our lift is legal.  Our lift goes up and down a short flight of stairs to the basement of our church where our hall is located.  Without it, people who cannot negotiate stairs, because of a wheel chair or other issues, couldn’t attend our special events.

The process to get a permit is as follows.  First we hire a private company to inspect our lift, and pay them a ridiculous amount (about $325 I think) for an inspection.  Once inspected, we send a copy of the inspection, along with a check for $120 to the Department of Homeland Security.  Why the Department of Homeland Security is involved with lift inspections, I haven’t the foggiest idea.  When I joked about it, someone suggested it was because they needed funding, and this was just a method to get them money.  So we pay.  We pay the private company for an inspection.  We pay the state to get a license.

We pay and we are then left alone.  Until this year, when a state inspector shows up out of the blue to look at our lift.  Three years.  Three years I’ve been taking care of this now, and I have never had a state inspector come out.  They had already issued our license.  Yet still, an inspector shows up at our door a couple of weeks ago.  The secretary calls me at home because he wants to see our inspection report from the private company.  I come across irritated to her, which I quickly assure her that it is not her calling me, but the idea this guy shows up out of nowhere when they have already granted us a license.  I tell her where to find the inspection paperwork, so she can show him.

He is not happy with the way our lift is operating.  He doesn’t like how the stop buttons work.  He calls the private company that inspected our lift, and apparently reams them for passing it in their inspection.  The private company comes out to take care of the issues.  This is their gravy train after all.  They make ridiculous money for less than an hours worth of work inspecting these lifts.  The private company informs the secretary that the lift was not designed in the manner that the state inspector thinks it ought to work.  They jerry-rig it to comply with the state inspectors demands.  The inspector is apparently happy with the jerry-rigging and he is now off our backs.

This is just one little example of how the state is a busybody that interferes in areas where it has no business.  The result is a waste of our money, both the churches and the taxpayers.  The result is lost productivity, as a company is fixing imaginary issues.  The result is a company is profiting on inspections from which it would not otherwise be making money.  They made twice as much money on the inspection as when they actually came out and fixed our lift several months previously.  The result is an inspector that has to find issues to justify his employment, so he spends his time hassling an itty bitty little church over a lift where there is like a million to one chance that someone will every actually be injured on it.  Multiply this by all the other regulations of the state and imagine the consequences of all the lost productivity, wasted time, and wasted money.