Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Libertarian Case for Federal Employment

The latest news only reinforces the belief that the Federal government has far exceeded its constitutional bounds.  I find the IRS targeting especially troubling, as it is touches the most Americans and yet appears to be unaccountable.  News of the NSA spying, as egregious as that is, has pushed the even more problematic spying on reporters and potentially the Congress off the front page.  And the death of Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi has yet to be adequately explained.  In spite of all this, the federal government is my employer.  How could I work for an employer of whom I am so critical, one might wonder.

First, I work in a part of the federal government that more or less operates within its constitutional bounds.  More importantly, I don't think that those of us in the liberty movement should cede federal employment to the left.  Peggy Noonan discusses the importance of the character of civil servants in the IRS scandal.  Forty years ago, Nixon tried to use the IRS to harass his enemies.
But part of that Watergate story is that Nixon failed. Last week David Dykes of the Greenville (S.C.) News wrote of meeting with 93-year-old Johnnie Mac Walters, head of the IRS almost 40 years ago, in the Nixon era. Mr. Dykes quoted Tim Naftali, former director of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, who told him the IRS wouldn't do what Nixon asked: "It didn't happen, not because the White House didn't want it to happen, but because people like Johnnie Walters said 'no.' "
Unfortunately, Douglas Shulman the IRS Commissioner during the targeting of liberty movement groups seemed to be acting at the behest of the White House, which was publicly decrying the groups while Democratic Senators were calling for investigations only of conservative groups.

Often, it only takes one person to stand up and say "this is wrong" for a bad policy to get stopped.  This is why we need constitution-abiding, freedom-loving employees on the federal payroll.  I understand that its the taxpayers money we are spending and I do my best to keep that in mind.

A small example, from my own work comes to mind.  Years ago, our agency outsourced most of our standard desktop and networking IT.  Getting with the program and cooperating with the effort, despite its enormous difficulties became the order of the day.  However, in my little pocket and others, we still had research networks to run that were specifically exempted from the monolithic agency IT solution.  However, we were forced onto server based computing solutions before they were ready for prime-time and paid a hefty fee to do so, about $2,000 per year.  In order to maintain the sanity of our users, we maintained an email capability at much lower cost per person.  While the two grand was supposed to deliver much more than just email, that was all it was really used for and it wasn't that good initially.  Many of our users continued to use our research network email address until this became a large public embarrassment, cost be damned.

I came under severe pressure to eliminate the old email completely, but I fought long and hard for some exceptions so that I wouldn't have to shut down.  Fast forward six years and sequestration is getting leadership to rethink their priorities.  $2,000 per year for a solution where the users only use the email looks pricey, all of a sudden.  Next thing you know, my boss is asking me to write a proposal to drop all the users out of the agency system who only use the research network for significant cost savings.

If I hadn't been convinced that in the long run, the cost argument would prevail, I wouldn't have fought so hard in the first place.  I have certainly had my share of failures in other policy areas, unfortunately.  But I believe that if there were more employees with my frame of mind, our government would be more efficient and less intrusive.  To be fair, because the federal government tries to do too much, it will not be efficient until it is much smaller.  Better to have liberty movement types on the inside than not.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, B-Daddy. Have we San Diego Tea Partiers got anything planned for the tax protest on June 19?