lewrockwell.com / By Steven Greenhut / January 29, 2013
Whenever I speak or write about California’s pension and public debt problems, I always hear from well-intentioned, conservative- and libertarian-minded people who want me to consider their solutions. Most of their ideas – caps on this kind of spending or that, changed pension formulas, public votes, etc. – are sensible enough, but they always miss the main point.
That is, they misunderstand the nature of government. They think that government is an institution that does all these necessary things and can therefore be reformed. But government is a vast force-based enterprise designed to take as much money from the public and give as much of it as possible to the clients of government. It’s a wealth transfer and any genuine services government provides can be done better, cheaper and more humanely in the private sector.
When it comes to pensions, there’s no technical problem. In about three seconds, I can craft a non-radical, extremely modest plan that ends unfunded pension liabilities. Starting tomorrow, public employees no longer receive defined-benefit plans and instead get a 401/k-style plan like typical private-sector serfs. What are they going to do, quit en masse and get private-sector jobs? I hear readers laughing now.
Problem solved. The real problem, though, is not technical, but political. The public-sector unions that run this state, and the Democrats and Republicans who do their bidding, would never allow it. As it is, they fight any tiny reform, even for future workers. So why waste any brain cells thinking about big fixes in a state government where legislators not only resist modest reforms but still hatch schemes to expand benefit levels for the elite class of government employees?