The Soberest Drunk In The Bar:
Comparing Governments

by Michael Cloud

“We have the highest SAT scores of any public school system in America,” boasts a high school principal.

“Property tax rates in our town are the lowest in the state,” says the newspaper editorial.

“Our welfare system is ranked in the top 10%,” beams a government official.

“Our state-funded affordable housing is the best…”

“Local government construction projects are the most cost-efficient…”

Again and again, government-funded, government-run programs are touted as the lowest cost, most economical, highest value, and highest ranked.

And they truly are – IF we make sure we compare them only to other governments.


Because somebody is always the soberest drunk in the bar.

This Friday night, after work, go to a bar. Pick a good bar. One where they welcome serious drinking. A bar where they drink to celebrate, to forget, to remember, or for no reason at all.

Grab a stool. Nurse a few beers. The social drinkers and amateurs have left. Nobody's there but you, the bartender and the determined drinkers.

Keep your eyes wide open. You'll see men and women bend elbows, drain their cups, pound ‘em back, and swill it down. They'll binge and booze it up. Some will get pickled, stewed, smashed, sloshed, and blotto.

They'll blow by the legal limit for intoxication. Some might get falling down drunk or even pass out.

Say there are 50 hard-core boozers in the bar.

One will be the soberest drunk in the bar. Five will be the 10% most clear-headed drunks in the group.

Want to catch a ride home with the soberest drunk in the bar?

Would you hand the car keys to the most clear-headed 10% of the drunks?

Would you want any of these drunks on the road?

Would you praise any for sobriety or self-restraint?


Why? Because you don't grade on the curve. You don't rank drunks against drunker drunks.

You compare them to people who are stone-cold sober.

So, too, with government spending, efficiency, results, and ranking.

Don't rate or rank, evaluate or judge one government against another. Nor one government program against other government programs.

Because one will always be the soberest drunk in the bar.

If we don't compare governments or government programs against each other, what do we judge them against?

Private enterprise. Privately-funded, privately-run businesses and projects.

NOT government-regulated, government-mandated, or government-funded businesses.

Real private enterprise. Privately owned businesses, operating in an open and competitive marketplace.

Private enterprise is the standard of judgment. Private enterprise is financial sobriety as opposed to the tax-intoxicated spending of government.

How much does it cost competitive, private businesses to produce the results we desire?

How much per year does it cost a home schooling family to educate one child?

How much per year does it cost a competitive private or parochial school to educate one child?

How much per year does it cost your tax-funded, government-run public school to educate one child?

Now compare the costs and results of each.

Do the same with tax-funded, government-run welfare. Compare it to private charity.

Or tax-funded, government-run “affordable” housing or housing projects. Compare them to “Habitat for Humanity” housing or low-cost efficiency apartments and multi-family units.

How about tax-funded, government-sponsored or government-run job training programs? Compare them to On-the-Job training - or business and charitable sponsored job training programs.

Compare Government to Private Enterprise. Costs and results.

For example, when you assess the costs of building a college dormitory for a tax-supported university, compare them to the costs of a similar apartment building. (A college dormitory is nothing but an on-campus apartment building for students.)

Compare tax-funded to privately-funded. Compare government-run to privately-run. Compare government costs and results to private enterprise costs and results.

Rate or rank, evaluate or judge government's costs and results against private enterprise's.

Stop settling for the soberest drunk in the bar.


Copyright 2006 by Michael Cloud


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