Chris Christie’s Scandal: Government “Enterprise” in Action

Even as some national conservatives come to his defense, lawmakers and his own constituents are having a hard time accepting that a hands-on manager like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn’t know that his staff was ordering a partial shutdown of a major thoroughfare for political payback.

On Sunday, several leading state lawmakers expressed skepticism that Christie didn’t have at least partial knowledge of what was going on. And one of the few polls conducted after the governor’s two-hour press conference last week showed a majority of voters in New Jersey don’t believe him either.

“I do think laws have been broken,” New Jersey State Senator John Wisniewski told CNN Saturday. “Public resources — the bridge, police officers — all were used for a political purpose, for some type of retribution, and that violates the law.” [Source: Reuters and 1/12/14]

Political purposes are illegal? Since when? What other purpose can government ownership of property serve other than political?

When a private entity owns something, it’s for the profit and betterment of customers. It has to be, because if it’s not—the entity will go out of business. Although private ownership does not guarantee honesty and competence, the incentives for those virtues are overwhelming under unhampered capitalism and freedom of competition, and necessarily must win out in the end.

Keep in mind that government-run monopolies—whether bridges, tunnels, subways or buses—cannot go out of business and will face little or no competition. Any privately owned enterprise does potentially face the risk of closing its doors.

Government ownership of any entity—a bridge, a tunnel, an automobile company, a train company or a medical practice—by definition involves political motives. Although it’s possible for government to step back and let rational motives prevail, this rarely happens and, in the end, political motives will always prevail.

This is one major reason why government’s authority should be limited to the functions of police, armies and upholding private contracts.

The real scandal of affairs such as Gov. Chris Christie’s “bridge-gate” is that it’s a scandal at all.

The concept “scandal” implies a surprise. But there should never be a surprise when political motives are exposed in government-run anything.

While it’s not always possible to know the specific motives involved, one can be sure that the motives for anything government-owned are always political. Government is staffed and run by politicians and their appointees. Of course their motives are political!

My point is less about supporting private ownership of bridges, tunnels and roads (a debate for a later, better day) than it is about the escalation in government control and ownership of virtually everything in our society. Increasingly, voters send the message that government management or control is the first, best and only resort to consider. Government takeovers of the mortgage industry, health care, the automobile industry on top of management of agriculture, education and the kinds of cars we drive, light bulbs we use, shower heads we install…the list has become endless.

Medical care, especially now with the “affordable care act,” is now under more federal government control than ever before. In the coming years, we can expect to see the equivalent of many bridge-gate “scandals” in the context of government-run (essentially government-owned) hospitals, doctors and medical procedures.

People will scream that the politicians now running medical care are serving “political” motives. Of course they will, and the political pressure groups with the most power will always win. Chris Christie is nothing more than a politician. Conservatives who think he’s any better or different than an Obama are as out-of-touch as those who think Obama is anything other than a petty politician himself.

The naiveté, ignorance or (in some cases) outright evasiveness of Americans on this subject is sad and dangerous. Most Americans waffle between cynical hopelessness about government or Pollyanna like faith that the next politician will deliver where the last ten or twenty (Obama and Christie are the latest) have failed.

If you think Gov. Christie’s negligence or malfeasance in “bridge-gate” is appalling, keep in mind: This is one of the few scandals you’ll ever know about.

Rejecting the absurd faith in government management and ownership to which most Americans stubbornly cling does not require cynicism. It requires realism.

Realism requires an acceptance of the fact that government performance will never, on its best day, come close to competing with the private sector or unhampered capitalism on its worst day.

The future of any nation under a system of totally free enterprise grounded in the rational human spirit that made America possible in the first place is an optimistic scenario, indeed.


Be sure to “friend” Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest.