Government Accountability is an Oxymoron  

The most powerful force on earth is a consumer armed with a free choice.   

Government Accountability is an Oxymoron  

By: George Noga – December 1, 2019  


Since founding the school choice movement in Florida 25 years ago, I have debated many apologists for government schools. Invariably, their go-to argument is that private voucher schools are “unaccountable“. When everything else fails, they trot out this moldy canard. It’s time for me, once and for all, to demolish this fairy tale.  


            Everyone wants accountability for the products and services they consume. In free markets businesses compete to provide accountability for quality, safety and value. There is no such thing as an unaccountable free market. The most potent force on this planet is a consumer armed with a free choice; or, as Von Mises so eloquently put it, “Markets are a daily plebiscite in which every penny confers the right to vote“.  


          Markets deliver safety, quality and value in many ways. Foremost is branding, by which companies stake their reputation on products. When you vacation at Disney or buy an Apple computer, the reputations of the companies are on the line. Markets also deliver quality and value through franchising. If you eat at Wendy’s, you know what to expect. There also are third party rating firms like Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, Underwriter’s Laboratories and BBB. Lastly, social media confer enormous power on consumers; a few terrible reviews can sink nearly any business.  


          Markets are accountable from the bottom up, with consumers exercising control directly. Government accountability is an oxymoron; to the limited extent it may exist, it is from the top down. Consumers can exercise limited control through the political process only once every four years. With government accountability, voters select candidates with positions on numerous issues; with markets, consumers make a choice about one specific good or service. In many jurisdictions accountability is impossible due to political domination by interest groups and voting blocks. With government schools there is no branding, franchising, independent rating agencies or social media.  


        Contrast market accountability (Uber) with government regulated taxis. With Uber, consumers get location, name, photo, driver rating, fare and arrival time. They get a spotless car, pay via credit card and rate the driver. With taxis you get none of the above; you get an unkempt driver with poor English who drives aggressively. The taxi has a musty odor, blares obscene music and costs triple Uber; complaints are futile. Which is more accountable, the market (Uber) or government (taxis)?  


           An independent review of Providence, RI schools with 25,000 students found peeling lead paint, brown water, leaking sewage, rats, frigid temperature, classroom chaos, bullying, no discipline and rampant violence. Only 5% of students were at grade level. Unions protect failed teachers and principals, who at worst are placed in rubber rooms with full salary and benefits. Government blamed lack of funding even though spending was $18,000 per student – 50% above the national average. Not one person ever has been held accountable and these horrors have been going on for decades.   


         In sharp contrast, Providence charter and voucher schools are successful. Instead of expanding charters and vouchers, government and unions want to impose more regulations on them in the name of – you guessed it – accountability. They are trying to turn charters and vouchers into the same veritable hell holes parents are fleeing.  


         Lack of accountability in government is endemic just like waste, fraud and abuse. The only way to reduce these evils is to slash government spending; there is absolutely no other way.  We can increase accountability and simultaneously reduce cost, waste, fraud and abuse by giving every parent a 100% school voucher.   


        The next time you hear that voucher schools are unaccountable, remember Uber, taxis and rubber rooms. Remember that free markets always are accountable and that government accountability is an oxymoron. Above all, remember the Providence schools; how much of that kind of accountability do you want for your children?  

Medicare for all? Next, we take on the Canadian national health care system.   


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The Politics of Harvey, Irma and Maria

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! blow! You cataracts and hurricanes, spout till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!”  (King Lear)
The Politics of Harvey, Irma and Maria
By: George Noga – November 26, 2017
      The lines above are from King Lear’s famous diatribe against the storm. The once mighty Lear, now powerless, urges nature to bring on another apocalypse. The storm symbolizes Lear’s state of mind. Shakespeare’s words could easily have been spoken by politicians following Harvey, Irma and Maria, ranting about climate change, price gouging and, in Puerto Rico, blaming others for their lack of preparedness.
     Harvey was the first major (cat 3) hurricane to make US landfall since Wilma in 2005, the longest hurricane-free period ever. Irma was the only major hurricane to hit Florida in 12 years, toppling a 165-year record. What happened next was as predictable as it was pathetic. There were climate change diatribes worthy of King Lear about how 12 hurricane-free years somehow proves hurricanes are more (not less) frequent.
       Meanwhile, a 2017 peer-reviewed study (D’Aleo, Wallace, Idso) found man-made adjustments to temperature readings account for all reported warming in the past 75 years. The study’s authors said when numerous adjustments are made, it is reasonable to expect some to have the effect of increasing warming and some of decreasing warming. Instead, nearly all adjustments increased warming; i.e. the data underpinning global warming are based entirely on human adjustments – not on actual data!
       EPA Administrator Pruitt and Energy Secretary Perry have suggested red-blue team exercises (used by military and intelligence services) to expose vulnerabilities in climate science. Climate alarmists went ballistic, arguing it would be a dangerous attempt to elevate minority opinions and to undercut the legitimacy, objectivity and transparency of existing climate science. Why would legitimate scientists be afraid to debate any issue? They should welcome debate. Newton is spinning in his grave.
       Politicians also mimicked King Lear in castigating price gouging. Florida Senator Nelson and AG Bondi were the best Lear impersonators. Bondi vowed to prosecute and to shame gougers and established a hotline for reporting violations. They are economically illiterate; economists universally agree price gouging is beneficial.
       Americans understand prices for the same product fluctuate in different conditions. Hotel rooms in a college town cost more during a big game. Americans openly flaunt anti-scalping laws. A poor ghetto kid risking scarce capital to broker tickets should be honored, not incarcerated. We readily accept Uber’s surge pricing and viscerally grasp it is beneficial. Government engages in price gouging at, inter alia, airports, toll roads, turnpike rest stops and sporting venues – Nelson and Bondi take note.
      Prices in free markets convey accurate, truthful and useful information about the value of a good or service; government prices are lies; consider the following:
  •    Market prices are determined by voluntary cooperation among people. Government prices are coercive and based on the naked police power of the state. Markets enforce themselves; government prices must be enforced by men with guns.
  •   Market prices alleviate shortages by directing resources to where they are most needed; government prices (rent control) lead to rationing and create shortages.
  •   Market prices are logical, non-political, foster civility and encourage honest behavior. Government prices are illogical, political and strain the social fabric by criminalizing laudable and honest behavior. Government prices create black markets, incentives for illegal behavior and breed disrespect for the law as in Venezuela.
  •   Market prices result in more supplies being available during a crisis, storing extra goods beforehand and conservation. Government prices create shortages, rationing and empty shelves. Market prices are better for victims of natural disasters.
       Why should a hurricane somehow be different than a football game when it comes to the price of a hotel room? Market prices are truthful; government prices are lies. In what kind of society would you prefer to live – one based on voluntary cooperation of people in markets or one based on government lies enforced by men with guns?

Our next post describes the four gifts of Christmas

Bottled Water and Socialism

A simple bottle of water, available in stores for under a dollar, proves why
communism, socialism and all command economies are doomed to failure.
By: George Noga – March 27, 2016

       In the 1970s still water began to be offered for sale in the USA in single serving sizes. I knew sparkling water had been sold for some time and there was a market for bottled water in parts of the world where the tap water was not safe or of poor quality. But I thought “Who in America would pay for single serving still water when safe, good quality water runs Scott free out of faucets, water fountains and coolers?

     I am trained in economics and like to consider myself as reasonably bright, possessing integrity and motivated to make the best possible decisions to serve my fellow man. Yet, if I were a 1970s era government planner, I would have prevented our economy’s scarce resources from being used to produce and distribute bottled water.

     I would have been dead wrong! Today, bottled water is the second largest beverage sold – ahead of both milk and beer. In 2014, 11 billion gallons ($25 billion) were sold in just the USA – equal to 34 gallons per American and this ranked the US as only 10th in the world. This was true despite its cost of around $1 for 500 milliliters which works out to $7 per gallon – nearly three times the price of gasoline.

     Education, training in economics, smarts and logic coupled with the very best of intentions would have proved incapable of discerning the preferences of my fellow citizens, the ambitions and creativity of entrepreneurs and the behavior of consumers armed with a free choice. If I had been the chief government planner in the 1970s, there would be no bottled water available for sale today in the USA.

     Yet, despite a government apparatchik being as totally wrong as I would have been about bottled water, no one ever would have known about my mistake because  no one could possibly have known what would happen with free people in a free market. And it isn’t just bottled water. There would be no copy machines or personal computers; IBM originally estimated the world market was for only 5,000 copiers and under 100 personal computers. There would be no internet as the cognoscenti of the time believed it would only be used by government and universities.

     The humble bottle of water we now take for granted proves all forms of socialism and command economies are frauds and conversely proves why free markets work.

The next post will be on April 1st; readers may think it is an April fool, but it isn’t!


MLLG State of the Union Address

By: George Noga – October 1, 2014
      My fellow Americans: I begin with first principles. Governments are instituted among men to protect their rights which include life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, this is the only legitimate purpose for government. Experience has shown that legally sanctioned force, i.e. government is necessary to secure our rights including defense against foreign threats, protection from domestic violence and enforcement of contracts. Government therefore is a necessary, albeit evil, force that must be tightly controlled and used only for the carefully circumscribed purposes noted supra and then only to the absolute minimum extent necessary.
      All of human experience demonstrates free people, free trade and free markets result in the greatest prosperity for all. Government is inherently coercive; it is not about logic, reason or persuasion; it is about brute force including the threat of force. In contrast, civil society is always voluntary and cooperative. No company, no matter how big or powerful, can compel you to buy its product or service. A consumer armed with a free choice is the most powerful force on earth.

     The principles identified supra lead to twelve major initiatives I now announce. There is much more to be done; however, this is where we must begin to restore our Constitutional Republic.

  1. The Constitutional Box: We are a government of laws and not men. The identity of those who hold executive, legislative or judicial offices should be of little consequence to citizens provided they act within the confines of the Constitution, i.e. stay inside the Constitutional box. This means shrinking government to its core responsibility of securing our rights and, to a very limited extent, providing infrastructure. Accordingly, we will scale the federal government back to 15% of GDP, a level which empirically is demonstrated to result in the maximum rate of economic growth and hence the maximum well-being for all our citizens.
  2. Free Trade: Wealth and prosperity are created by trade among peoples. Traders take substantial risks and can accrue riches; however, their wealth ultimately depends on improving the lives of their customers. If they fail to make you better off, they do not prosper. Free and unfettered trade is universally good – always and everywhere. For that reason I announce the United States unilaterally will eliminate all tariffs and trade barriers – even if other countries do not reciprocate. We will be better off for that action and those who do not follow will be worse off.
  3. Sound Money: The Federal Reserve will have one mission only: to maintain sound money. This means purchasing power will be maintained, inflation eliminated, and increases in the money supply subject to strict constraints. The Fed will be audited regularly and we will take a hard look at reestablishing a gold standard.
  4. Taxation: As we scale government back to 15% of GDP, taxes can be slashed. I am asking for repeal of the 16th amendment to eliminate the income tax. We also will eliminate the death tax and Social Security/Medicare payroll taxes. These will be replaced by  a consumption tax at the lowest rate possible – likely in a single digit. The 60% of Americans who currently pay no income tax (net of credits) will begin to enjoy the dignity that comes with being a taxpayer. Moreover, they will have a personal stake in controlling spending and holding taxes to the absolute minimum. The crisis of spending, debt and deficits will end instantaneously.
  5. Defense and Foreign Affairs: We will follow the admonition of President John Quincy Adams that “America is a friend of freedom everywhere, but a custodian only of our own.” Simultaneously, we will observe George Washington’s advice  that “The best way to keep the peace is to be prepared for war.” We will strengthen and then consistently maintain the military for the long term at such a high level as to deter any possibly adversary.
  6. War on Drugs: The war on drugs is over. As we learned with prohibition, the drug war is unwinnable and never should have been fought. Henceforth, all drugs will be legal but regulated, taxed and discouraged just as with tobacco. Drug taxes collected will go solely for rehabilitation of those who continue to abuse them. We immediately will realize benefits including: (a) releasing non-violent drug offenders; (b) ending drug related crime; (c) putting drug cartels out of business; (d) reducing police corruption; (e) refocusing our foreign policy; (f) ensuring safety of drugs; and (g) eliminating drug dealers as role models.
  7. Regulation: All regulations will automatically sunset ratably every 10 years. Congress must enact any that need to be replaced. Any regulations promulgated by bureaucrats that have an economic impact of over $25 million must be voted on and approved by Congress before taking effect.
  8. Role of Juries: Henceforth, defendants (and their attorneys) will have the right to explain to juries that juries are sovereign and, as intended by our nation’s founders, have the final say about the legality and enforcement of all laws. The grand jury system will be reformed to stop prosecutorial abuse and to allow citizen grand juries.
  9. War on Poverty: The war on poverty is finished. The percentage of Americans who, by their own reports, lack a healthy level of food, shelter, clothing or medical care is 2%-3%. This cohort is identical to the 2% to 3% of Americans with very low mental acuity, i.e. those who struggle to fill out a simple form. We will therefore refocus our attention and also our solutions to better deal with the real problem. Even though the percentage in poverty is low, it still equates to 7-8 million of our countrymen to whom we pledge a strong safety net.
  10. Entitlements: Obamacare is to be repealed and replaced with free market solutions. Entitlements  will be placed on budget. Social Security gradually and voluntarily will be privatized. In the interim, benefits will be maintained by changing indexing and lengthening eligibility ages. Medicare benefits will be maintained by gradually lengthening eligibility ages and changing to a premium support model; also, medical costs will moderate given real prices.  Medicaid will be block granted to the states to administer as they see fit without interference.
  11. Energy/Climate: The Keystone Pipeline will be built and natural gas exported. We will drill and frack in ANWR, offshore and on federal lands – all ASAP. Our national delusion about manmade global warming  is over. Warming is a solar phenomenon to which man’s contribution is minimal. We will continue to develop alternative fuels for the future while eliminating subsidies for wind, solar and biofuels. The EPA’s mission will be refocused.
  12. Education: School choice is the civil rights issue of our time. We will move with all deliberate speed to universal school vouchers. We will bring education into the 21st century with technology and by furthering alternatives such as online and home schooling and by creating entirely new paradigms.
          Thank you and may God bless the United States of America.