The Florida ballot fiasco has produced at least one valuable benefit:
It has shown us exactly how government actually operates.
Almost everyone watching the news from Florida can see that anyone
with the power to affect the outcome — the secretary of state, the
various judges, the many local election-board officials — is a Democrat
or Republican who is acting according to his own partisan interest.
So the final outcome won’t depend on “truth” or “justice” or
“fairness” — but on the party affiliation of whoever turns out to be
the person making the final decision. In other words, what should be a
non-partisan, objective ruling will instead be a partisan, politically
This is your government on politics
Is that the way government should operate? Perhaps not, but that’s
the way government does operate. And that’s the way government
In fact, if politicians will act in such a blatantly self-interested
way as they have in Florida with the whole country watching them,
imagine what they do when there’s no press coverage of their decisions.
Your government on drugs
For example, we like to think Food and Drug Administration officials
have only your health and safety in mind when they decide what food or
medicines they’ll let you buy. But they are as politically motivated as
any Florida election official.
The FDA has routinely kept life-saving medicines off the market for
years until the bureaucrats were positive they could never be held
responsible for a single death. While waiting for the FDA, tens of
thousands of people have died for lack of the medicines — far more
lives than the FDA could possibly claim to have saved.
People have suffered unnecessarily — or even died — with such
problems as heart disease, depression, schizophrenia, kidney cancer, and
epilepsy, just because FDA officials were afraid of the political
consequences they would face if they made even a minor mistake.
Robert Goldberg of Brandeis University has estimated that FDA delays
in approving drugs that were already used safely elsewhere in the world
have caused at least 200,000 Americans to die over the past 30 years.
These delays affected Alzheimer patients who weren’t allowed to take
THA, people with high blood pressure who couldn’t take beta-blockers,
those with kidney cancer who couldn’t take Interleukin-2, and AIDS
patients who died while the FDA pondered whether drugs like AZT were
Almost any medical doctor will tell you that taking a baby aspirin or
drinking a glass of red wine every day helps reduce the threat of a
heart attack. But the FDA has threatened aspirin makers and wineries
with fines or imprisonment if they try to tell you that. Why? Because
aspirin and wine could provide competition for industries that have
better political connections.
The people who run the FDA — or any other government program — are
politicians, appointed by other politicians for political purposes, just
like the Florida election officials.
Government is politics
The nature of government is politics — the politics of winning and
holding office, the politics of rewarding one’s friends, the politics of
punishing one’s enemies, the politics of looking out for No. 1.
When George Bush and Al Gore propose a new prescription-drug program
for senior citizens, they are actually proposing a new political
boondoggle by which a new group of politically connected people can get
rich, by which politically appointed bureaucrats will have more
life-or-death authority over your health, by which a larger area of your
life will be ruled by politics.
Getting what we want
How can we remove politics from government?
We can’t. And we should quit pretending we can. Instead, we should
remove government itself from our lives wherever possible.
The way to make health care more efficient and more affordable is to
take the government and politics out of it — not intrude politics
further into it with Medicare reform, or with prescription-drug programs
or a “Patient’s Bill of Rights.”
The way to make education more efficient is to take the government
and politics out of it — not intrude politics further into it with more
federal spending, or by giving the government control over private
schools through vouchers, or with federal testing programs.
As Michael Cloud has pointed out, the problem isn’t the abuse of
power; it is the power to abuse. And the only relief is to remove from
politicians the power to abuse us.
This is why Libertarians oppose every new government program
– because we know each such program will be used to help those who are
politically connected at the expense of those who have no political
This is why Libertarians favor every reduction in government
– because we know that the way to expand the power of each of us to
control his own life is to take away from politicians the power to run
our lives for their benefit.
If the Florida fiasco has helped people understand that what we think
of as “government” is really politicians making political decisions for
political purposes, we should all be grateful.