It is finally time to be an adult and not the keg-stand champion of the local fraternity.
Not to burst your over-eager bubble but the description above applies to normal times only. And, unfortunately, we aren't living in normal economic times. Many developed countries are teetering on the edge of recession. The U.K. has made it official as credit demand has collapsed all around Europe. After a decade of inflation-driven growth, China continues to slow down while Asian stocks are declining. Perhaps the only remaining hope for growth lies in the U.S. which has seen an unprecedented amount of money printing within the past few years.
When the financial crisis hit, central banks around the world met it with massive liquidity injections. Rather than allow the various manipulated sectors of the economy to clear themselves of malinvestments, banking systems were bailed out to the detriment of the rest of the public. Losses were socialized to essentially prop up the stock market. What has emerged is too big to fail institutions more addicted to easy credit and money than ever before. Should the rate of money printing slow down anywhere, a greater downturn awaits. The fractional reserve banking still remains "inherently insolvent" like Murray Rothbard recognized.
In short, economic prospects remain bleak for those gearing up to enter the workforce. Private sector investment, essential to sustainable growth, remains depressed. Unemployment rates are high with at least half of Spain's youth unable to find jobs. So what are college graduates, saddled with obscene amounts of debt, resorting to? According to the Financial Post, many want to or have taken to the public sector.
Data obtained by the Financial Post from international research company Universum shows that when asked to rank their most ideal employers, the 3,500 Canadian business students polled place numerous public-sector institutions in the Top 20 (scroll down to bottom of page for full rankings).
In fact, the government of Canada, which ranks third overall, is seen as a more ideal employer among business students than any of Canada’s Big Five banks and highly reputable organizations such as Microsoft Corp., Ernst & Young, Bell Canada, Sony Corp. and Facebook Inc. Other public-sector organizations within the Top 20 include the Canada Revenue Agency, the Bank of Canada and provincial governments.
But recent graduates should take heed before diving head first into the public sector. What may seem like the best choice in the short run will hold grave consequences in the long. It is my sincere recommendation that college graduates not only avoid public service but persuade their peers to do the same.
To understand why government is an impediment to rising living standards, one must understand what the operation of producing wealth really entails. Picture a shoemaker and cattle rancher. In exchange for a pair of finely crafter footwear made of the finest leather, the rancher provides the shoemaker with one steer. The exchange is mutually beneficial for both parties or else it would fail to occur in the first place. When applied en masse, what is known as a market economy emerges. Based on harmonious and consent-based trade, markets unperverted by dictations of the political class are inherently peaceful. They result in the production of wealth and material abundance. Marxist chains of oppression are just exaggerations used to call forth emotional, envy driven campaigns of plunder.
The state on the other hand is a different entity from those which exist in a free society. Yes, governments provide goods and services like any private firm. But the dissimilarity lies in the fact that the state, being the monopolizer of compulsion and predation, is compensated through violent means only. Rather than accept voluntary payments for the providing of such things as roads, court systems, or air traffic control, the state levies taxation. Failure to pay, irregardless of whether you personally utilize these public goods, results in excessive financial penalty and/or imprisonment.
Now it may be asked, “so what if government taxes?” “Democracy affords us our modern day society, it must be paid for no matter the circumstances, right?” This line of questioning is of the same breed of thought contained in the infamous quote of former Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes which followed as “taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.”
Such logic wrongly approaches how government operates amidst the prevailing social order. If the state is essentially a parasitic entity that acquires its functionary resources from the private sector, then it must be deduced that production within an unbound economy preceded the formation of governmental authority. In the same regard, in order to legislate rules of conduct, general societal norms and acceptable behaviors must have already been in place to provide a basis for law. Famed French political economist Fredrich Bastiat said it best in writing,
“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
The public sector may offer safety of employment but it is at the cost of enhancing human capital. Ludwig von Mises had this concept pinned down decades ago in his work Bureaucracy:
Government jobs offer no opportunity for the display of personal talents and gifts. Regimentation spells the doom of initiative. The young man has no illusions about his future. He knows what is in store for him. He will get a job with one of the innumerable bureaus; he will be but a cog in a huge machine the working of which is more or less mechanical. The routine of a bureaucratic technique will cripple his mind and tie his hands. He will enjoy security. But this security will be rather of the kind that the convict enjoys within the prison walls. He will never be free to make decisions and to shape his own fate. He will forever be a man taken care of by other people. He will never be a real man relying on his own strength. He shudders at the sight of the huge office buildings in which he will bury himself.
The question is what types of skills do you want to posses when this happens? Will you be experienced in entrepreneurship and the immeasurable ways by which the market economy functions? Or will your entire professional career amount to pushing paper in an antiquated bureaucracy?
To summarize in just a few words: public service is the most ignoble of services. Public servants are not compensated by satisfying consumer wants but by the mere threat of force emanating from legal decree. Serve your fellow man; do not control him after pilfering his wealth. As humans, our wants are inexhaustible. The division of labor, that is the luxury of labor specialization brought on by previous capital accumulation, allows us to pursue any number of occupations producing and fulfilling the limitless needs of each other.
Just please choose one that doesn’t include a government-embroidered badge and gun.
*Big thanks to Robert Higgs for the featured image*