Why Nothing Works
Report by Betty Sakai
Kevin Williamson is a writer. Like many writers he is played-down in demeanor. He describes himself as similar to other writers: “rather boring”, “not too interesting”. He appeared somewhat introverted, perhaps akin to the personality of Woody Allen in verbal presentation. The truth is Kevin Williamson had much to say. He delivered much information to his Conservative Forum audience.
He talked about why nothing works. Considering the high cost of government inefficiency that produces inferior products and services, he compared government enterprise to the products and services provided by private industry. Exampling products produced by private enterprise such as Clairol Touch of Yogurt Shampoo and asparagus-flavored jello, Williamson noted that even though many products fail, innovation continues and new products get developed. As new products are developed, some satisfy the needs of consumers and change society for the better.
Discussing the public enterprise system, the U.S. Postal Service, Kevin noted that USPS rivals Google in yearly income of $70B, employs 700K people in 32K facilities, uses 800M gallons of gasoline each year, delivers 155B items to 155M mail-boxes. The result is that 97% of the mail people receive is useless junk… a serious waste of time and money. Advertisements and magazines delivered like “Restoration Hardware” get summarily thrown into the trash. Junk mail wastes paper made from trees and also wastes our time.
The U.S. Postal Service, Williamson deduced, must be considered a negative asset as the carrying costs exceed the value of the service provided. Even if the service were free, it would be a negative asset. Government structure takes away the innovation that would normally occur if government were not involved. Government bureaucracies like the post office, school districts and government schools, the DMV, local and federal governments create negative assets that never go away. Bureaucratic agencies and programs never end regardless of the inferiority of the product and services they provide. One private enterprise response to government schools is home schooling and this threatens the monopoly of government schools. Williamson added that considering the product produced by government schools, public schools should be closed down and their records destroyed.
To illustrate the importance of incentive, Kevin remembered that in his doctor’s office patients are asked to update their history using centuries old technology of a paper and pencil while the billing is done electronically using 21st Century technology. His conclusion: “incentives matter”. Government programs do not work, cannot innovate. Federal money paid in support Welfare and Medicaid produce extremely poor health care. Programs created by good intentioned politicians result in one-time fixes that do not work, in systems that invite waste, fraud, and abuse.
Because in politics it is considered a sign of weakness to change or reverse your position, politicians refrain from eliminating failed programs and systems. “Politics, like a market, is a forum for negotiation, but one with a critical defect: You cannot say no.” There is a huge penalty for changing your mind, for admitting you are wrong in politics.
A Texas native, Kevin Williamson thinks the world of Ted Cruz who has a personal relationship with the National Review. Curious as to his audience’s opinion, Kevin poled the audience and noted that most attending backed Ted Cruz. He plugged his book, The Case Against Trump.
A libertarian on just about everything, Williamson focuses on self-help and not on political correctness. He writes for the National Review as a roving correspondent. As Director of the National Review Institute’s William F. Buckley Jr. Fellowship Program in Political Journalism, he is the author of The End is Near and It’s Going To Be Awesome, How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer. His other books are The Dependency Agenda, and The Politically Incorrect Guide To Socialism. Confessing that his writing on such obtuse subjects does not sell many books, he confessed that like all writers he looks forward to getting mail from the publisher that pays him 8% of the meager sales. Working freelance, he added he once gave a speech to a business group about why tax evasion is a form of patriotism and they paid him in cash. He concluded, “They must have agreed with me.”
In his book, The End is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome…” Kevin Williamson talks about allowing physical or virtual communities to perform what we now think of as government functions to implement policies as long as they are reasonable – choices of service providers, a competitive government where technology encourages the individual to influence private enterprise and industry. Putting politics in charge of the press or our speech, he said does not produce great thought, literature, or great faith. Government does not produce things superior to what we come up with when left to our own devices. The federal government today under Obama is working hard to suffocate the rise of innovations, privacy technologies, and private currencies. It is less and less capable of keeping its own secrets and has been reduced to a system where violence has risen to the surface.
In his book, Williamson writes that intellectual architecture of the evolving new world system will be more sophisticated that most consumer action groups today. He discusses a system called “Be Cool” where 100,000 participants influence the producer of a product by refusing to buy its product until changes they deem necessary are made. Noting that reputation is very important, he concludes that people need the opportunity to account for the intensity of their feelings.
Summarizing that Conservativism is a permanent and energetic connection to reality, Kevin Williamson answered questions and received a spirited applause from his Forum audience.
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