What does a government agency do when it finds out that it has unspent money? Does it give the money back to taxpayers? Does it find another department with more important needs? Or does it find some way to spend the money — to make sure it can get the same money next year?
If you made the third choice, you might have a bright future ahead as a bureaucrat. If you made the first choice, you’re living your life on Fantasy Island.
In Camden, N.J., the city finds itself with $63,000 burning a hole in its bank account, because the grant from which the money comes expires on Sept. 30. Here’s the story. The state Department of Criminal Justice made the grant to the County Prosecutor’s Office, which didn’t know what to do with the money, because its “community justice director” — yes, that’s the title — was laid off in May. So that office agreed to give it to the city, which is required to spend it immediately. Why? Here’s the key:
The money needs to be used by Sept. 30 or the city would lose its chance at receiving the grant next year, city officials said.
There’s no consideration of whether the money is being used wisely. There’s no consideration for the people who had the money taken from them through coercion. There’s only concern that if they don’t find something to spend the money on, there won’t be more money for an equally useless purpose next year.
Why is it so difficult for people to see that when a state monopoly exists, it has no incentive to spend money wisely? Why can’t people see that when the people supplying the money are so disconnected from the people making decisions about how to spend it, this sort of insanity will happen all the time?
And what’s the money being used for? Well, the slapped-together program is called I Can End Truancy — or ICE-T, since bureaucrats love cutesy names — and it will pay 66 high school students $100 each to attend classes for just a few weeks. (There are also supposed to be conflict-resolution and anger-management workshops, but the details are vague.) The kids will be paid by Sept. 30 if they’ve attended classes for the first weeks of the program, but they’re going to promise to keep attending afterwards. Ummmm, yeah.
The program is a joke, of course. If you believe that paying people to attend classes and making them sit through a few workshops about managing their anger is going to change their behavior, you and I have a fundamentally different view of how people’s values change.
The state has no incentive to spend your money properly. Even if you still agree that the state has a moral right to take money from you, can anyone deny that this coercive monopoly will always be bloated, corrupt and inefficient compared to a truly free market?