• Tom Cleary

Workers & Employees


What’s the Beef?


Last week I discussed separating school and state and argued in favor of a completely privatized educational system. This should surprise no one. I mean, what do people think an anarcho-capitalist is going to argue? The whole thing does, however, bring up the question of whether I am being overly critical of public employees or disparaging them unnecessarily. I may be more sensitive to this idea as I have family that teaches in the public school system.


It was not my intention to level particular criticism at public school teachers or staff. There are I think distinctions to be made between workers and employees.


Workers vs. Employees


I would argue for a distinction to be made between workers and employees based upon what it is they do. Work is productive. It accomplishes something. By that standard yes there are workers in government. These are government workers who do tasks that would be done even if there were no government. Examples such as teachers, police/security, and utility workers come to mind.


Certainly, these industries would be different in a genuinely free market but there would be some manner of educators and administrators, some manner of security personnel and someone responsible for keeping homes and businesses lighted and heated. It is difficult to level harsh criticism at those who undertake these tasks as government workers. They are indeed workers, and they are productive. They would most certainly be more productive in a free market, and more innovative and provide goods and services at a lower cost. We should argue for the retreat of government from such tasks. In the meanwhile, it is not necessarily the workers fault that the government dominates their chosen field of endeavor. For instance, if you have a true passion for teaching, are you to blame because the government controls this field? I do not think so.


On the other hand, there are many who get paid by the government who are simply employees. By an employee I mean a clock puncher, one who is unproductive. These are people who work for agencies that would not exist on earth if not for the government. They serve only the government and do no productive work at all. Some examples that spring to mind are the Department of Motor Vehicles, your county assessor, or the Internal Revenue Service.


Private Sector Clock Punchers


True there are clock punchers in the private sector. We all have examples in our workplaces. They, however, are not living off the taxpayer’s wealth. They are paid ultimately by the consumers of their company’s goods and services. If they are such a drag to their employer’s operations, they will be let go or if the employer can’t figure out how to get more productive employees, the employer will go bankrupt. That is, the system has a built-in check and balance that does not prevent clock punching but does punish it. Government clock punchers, on the other hand, are almost never punished for being unproductive.


A Productive Response


A healthy and productive response to the existence of government employee/clock punchers is to demand that these positions be eliminated along with whatever government agencies they are supporting. Argue for turning all those doing productive work to be set loose in a genuinely free market, or at least to exist on user fees as an interim step to being truly privatized. In short, turn all (or as many as we can) into free market workers.


While these workers doing tasks like teaching, or policing are doing productive work there is no end to how much more productively they can do these tasks if freed from government control. There is no task on the planet that cannot be better completed outside of government control and within the bounds of a consensual society. Not to mention that free market tasks serve the needs of willing customers, not voters spending someone else’s money.


Getting rid of the clock punchers and turning the productive into free market workers will realign the economy to the true needs of the consumers and allow for a far more rational allocation of scarce resources. We are limited in the provision of these services, not by bureaucratic inertia but by the bounds of human imagination.


In the meanwhile, treat all those you encounter as you would wish to be treated, whether they work for the government or not. There is never a need to mistreat anyone. We can firmly, yet politely argue our position without recourse to ad hominem attacks. It is a matter of principle to treat people well, but also a practically more efficacious tactic. The Golden Rule even applies to those we consider simply public sector clock punchers.


All of this should also satisfy those who wish to respond to God’s free gift of Grace by building a better world. A genuine free market is one that bases its value on a true measure, a fair measure, a non-violent measure. God’s love for us is immeasurable but our human response can only be measured by how closely we adhere to God’s desire for peace and cooperation among His children.


Praise Be to God

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