Civil forfeiture is the power to seize property suspected of being produced by, or involved in, crime. The property owners must prove that they and their property are innocent of such involvement. Proving this can be, and government has a motive to make it be, a protracted, costly ordeal against a government that has unlimited resources. The government entity that seizes the property often is allowed to keep or sell it. Lucrative law enforcement involves blatant moral hazard — an incentive for perverse behavior.
GMU Econ alum Dave Hebert understands the perverse incentives that propel government officials to fund so much government spending with debt – that is, with resources extracted from future generations. A slice:
Imagine for a minute that you had a credit card, that you were allowed to set your own credit limit, that you were viewed as a hero for using and vilified for not using, and for which you would never have to pay the bill. What would you do with this mythical credit card?
Washington politicians do not have to imagine, because this is their day-to-day reality. Congress can set its own debt limit, and can raise it at any time by any amount. In fact, the House Committee on the Budget has even argued that we should “abolish the debt limit” altogether.
Today, it is widely believed that federal spending creates jobs. And it is common practice to express federal spending with figures such as “jobs created” or “jobs supported.” For example, using the average personal income in the U.S. of $63,214, the $73 billion of education spending could be said to support approximately 1.1 million jobs in education. Thus, the incentives that elected officials face is clear: more spending means more jobs. To do so is to be an economic hero. To suggest otherwise is to be accused of not caring about people.
Finally, today’s Washington politicians will not be held responsible for such profligate spending. Future elected officials will instead inherit the fiscal mess today’s officials create, just as today’s have inherited the fiscal mess caused by past officials.
One of the reasons was Rubio’s misleading claim that the deal Congress ended up approving “does not have the support of the rail workers.” He continues to make that claim in his piece today. “The hardworking rail worker was left out in the cold,” he wrote. The deal was a “decision to side with rail companies over rail workers” and “Democrats voted overwhelmingly to ram the September agreement — an agreement in name only, as it was rejected by four unions, including the largest — down the throats of the workers.”
Rubio does not mention that eight unions voted to ratify the deal. If you add up the votes across all twelve unions, most were in the affirmative. (Additionally, though the ratification elections saw high turnout relative to past contracts, thousands of rail workers did not vote at all, so we don’t know their opinions of the deal one way or the other.) Adopting a deal that two-thirds of the unions ratified and most voting union members approved is hardly ramming it down workers’ throats.
This is not to downplay the seriousness of the Covid pandemic for specific groups of people. But for most of the population, the actual threat of the virus was as minimal as a puddle around their feet. We built vast hospitals for thousands of people that never took even a single patient.
So what was it that happened? Perhaps it is possible, at the distance of more than two years, to get it in some perspective?
Yet even now, it is remarkable to look back and consider those days. Little wonder that people don’t want to do so.
Just consider the madness of the cases that were taken out by the police against people for breaking the various lockdown restrictions – restrictions that were more stringent than anything issued even in wartime.
For instance there were the two students at Leeds who were fined £10,000 for having a snowball fight. The beggar fined for sitting in a Tesco car park. The homeless man fined for being outside Liverpool Street Station. “I was arresting him for breaching coronavirus conditions because he had no address,” the arresting officer explained to the district judge.
Or remember the council in Wales which used drones with loudspeakers on them ordering people not to be outside and to go back to their houses if they were.
Did these things really happen in Britain in the 21st century? Yes, they did.
The police “surrounded” two ladies in Derbyshire who went for a country walk and questioned them over their hot drink flasks which officers said meant that the walk could be “classed as a picnic”. Not a picnic!
Or consider the people pulled over and fined for going for a Sunday morning hike in the Lake District. The pub landlord fined £4,000 for holding a staff party on the same day that it turned out there was a party at Downing Street, where the Prime Minister was fined 50 quid.
It is painful to reread. Even more painful to recall. I remember at the height of lockdown, one friend of mine called me and said: “Do you have informers where you are?” I asked her what she meant. She said that in her village there had been outbreaks of people ratting on their neighbours. One neighbour had stuck his head over his fence and said to my friend: “Are you aware that this is your second walk of the day?”
While most professionals continue to party, children, workers, the poor, small business people, the frail and the old will continue to deal with the collateral lockdown harms for years to come.