Fashion of Public Solutions Is Doomed
By Staff News & Analysis - March 28, 2013

The federal government's collection of unused and vacant properties is killing taxpayers. Watchdog groups say maintenance and bureaucratic red tape related to the U.S. government's 55,000-to-77,000 vacant properties has cost taxpayers up to $8 billion so far. An example: The government just sold off one of its buildings this month, for $19.5 million, Breitbart reports. But it took 10 years – 10 years of finding an appropriate seller and cutting through the bureaucratic red tape that winds through such sales. And during that time, taxpayers were responsible for picking up the maintenance and upkeep tab. – Washington Times

Dominant Social Theme: The government isn't the greatest manager but why complain? It gets things done … eventually.

Free-Market Analysis: Over and over again we find waste and mismanagement in government programs. And the worst offender of all – at least in the West – is the US federal government. Probably the European Union would exceed the US government but the amount of money available to the EU is not yet at the multi-trillion dollar level of the US.

What is especially strange is that despite government's obvious inability to get anything done in an efficient and timely fashion, people continue to believe that big government has the ability to provide social and economic solutions to the problems of the day.

This news, excerpted above, is simply another reminder of the reality of the government process. Here's more:

Another problem, Breitbart outlines: The government doesn't even have a handle on how many properties it owns. Why?

Nobody inventories them, Breitbart says. On top of that, federal law requires that any properties the federal government (/topics/federation/) wants to sell be first offered to other federal entities. State agencies get second dibs, followed by homeless shelters. Only when those avenues have been exhausted can the properties be offered for sale to the general market, Breitbart says.

"This is a problem that has been identified for years," said Tom Shatz, of Citizens Against Government Waste, in the Breitbart report. "Every time someone in the White House says 'let's sell property,' the red tape is simply too much for this process."

Let's sum up, then. The US government keeps an inventory of buildings that can take up to a decade to unload, in part because the government has to winnow through potential buyers based on various legally-imposed priorities. This is complicated by a lack of accounting and even a rudimentary understanding of what the feds have to offer and in what quantity.

Multiply this incompetence by US$3.5 trillion and you begin to get a sense of the magnitude of the problem. It isn't restricted to any one program or priority. It's pervasive. Big government doesn't work.

After Thoughts

Without the disciplining effect of the Invisible Hand, chaos abounds and waste multiplies. Further fashionable public solutions to private problems will only increase difficulties and compound problems. It is ever thus.

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