I am utterly and completely exasperated by the public sector, both here in the United Kingdom and in the United States. This stems from having to deal with these cretinous systems day in, day out in my job and elsewhere, and it merely cements my belief in a libertarian political future as the only really sensible way to run a country. I have had immensely expensive packages LOST for weeks and weeks by state-run postal systems. I have dealt with weeks of bureaucratic nonsense from government departments. I have had my medical records partially lost and mixed up by a National Health Service. I have had interviews cancelled without my consent by a social security office. But the example below is the cream of the crop.

In true altruistic fashion, the British government likes to feel it is their job to equalise the wealth of the country – a little like Robin Hood – stealing from all who go to work in order to disperse across the whole population according to their own criteria. Well. They do this in the form of what they have called “tax credits” – if you meet the criteria of the government (have at least one child, earn less than a certain amount, etc.) then you may qualify for tax credits, which are basically monthly tax rebates. What they DON’T tell you is how damned hard it is to actually apply. We applied in Feburary 2003 for tax credits – and now, in April 2004, we are still no further on. We have written numerous letters, made many phonecalls, and visited their freaking Enquiry Centre more times per month than I care to remember. The trouble seems to be one thing after another. Because my wife is American, she did not have a National Insurance number. It took them 10 months to realise that she would have to go through the process of getting one, even though we told them in Feburary and on many occasions thereafter. This even though the entire application was being performed on MY income, not hers. In other words, her having a National Insurance number is irrelevant, but it still took a year to get her one for the purpose of claiming tax credits. Its a good thing we weren’t one of the millions of people relying on those payments. It is now 14 months since our application and they are telling us (on our enquiry, not by their own will) that the National Insurance number has not been connected to her name.

It is a bizarre, archaic system. And anything run by the state inevitably WILL be, because there are no incentives for them to do any better. Why should they? They are guaranteed the money, they are guaranteed a salary, a job, a department. It is not through competition or hard work or enterprise that they achieve their reason for being – it is only theft of the working citizen that grants them this enviable position. So why sweat it? No targets to bother them, few figures to worry about, no big deal on timescales to adhere to — I’m telling you, no amount of quality deficit would permit me to swap to another provider; because there ARE no other providers (or should that be in this case ‘expropriators’?).

Meantime the guy who goes to work (like me) is stolen from; in ever-increasing amounts, month after month, year after year, in a bigger and bigger variety of ways. When we stop to refuel our car, 85% of that bill goes into government accounts. When we change our car to buy a new one, 17.5% of that bill also goes to them. The same when we do our weekly shopping, or purchase a more expensive item like a fridge or television set. When we choose to go out of their jurisdiction and buy from OUTSIDE the UK in order to avoid paying the extra amount, we end up paying it anyway through customs duty, set up for that very purpose. At the end of a hard month’s work, its only when we get paid we realise that exactly 33%, that’s ONE-THIRD (over 50% for those earning over a certain amount), of our month has been spent working for government directives which claim to be in our interest, not for ourselves.

The problem is NOT that the people working under these directives are claiming to do so in our interest. They are, in many cases, trying to do their best for us within the departments they are employed by (even if they find themselves used to an unnaturally flexible and easy working structure!). No, the problem is the system itself, and more fundamentally the principals which inform the reason for the existence of a system which relies on “public” (stolen) funds. We need to realise that the issues described above will always prevail in such systems (practically speaking, there are much better ways to achieve the ends they desire than coercion of this nature); and that any principals which involve this redistribution of wealth are immoral in the first place.

Fundamentally, it is NOT the role of government to be involved in this expanding list of all sorts of areas of people’s lives. My package sent privately with FedEx instead of the public system (which one pays for anyway… ?) arrived the FOLLOWING DAY, from a distance of over 6000 miles. And I would be £3000 better off if tax credits, and tax, had never been thought of to begin with.

Just a thought.

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John Wright

johnwright@softhome.net