A further characteristic of officialism is its extravagance. In its chief departments … it employs far more officers than are needed, and pays some of the useless ones exorbitantly … These public agencies are subject to no such influence as that which obliges private enterprise to be economical. Traders and mercantile bodies succeed by serving society cheaply. Such of them as cannot do this are continually supplanted by those who can. They cannot saddle the nation with the results of their extravagance, and so are prevented from being extravagant … Walk through a manufactory, and you see that the stern alternatives, carefulness or ruin, dictate the saving of every penny.

—Herbert Spencer. Over-legislation, 1853.

Government has no need to turn a profit, and that is its terrible failing. Without that imperative there is no motivation for economy. Everything is done the long way around, there is no belt-tightening or urgent reviewing of new technologies, no looking for ways to make tiny incremental savings or giant savings. An example is the case of the worker who failed to show up to work at a Community Services Board but continued to be paid for twelve years! (“Worker at taxpayer-funded agency in Virginia plays hooky for 12 years,” CNN, August 27, 2010.)

The following article published by CBS describes just how careful government is with the taxpayer’s dollars:

Chances are you’ve never heard of Darleen Druyun, but she’s been spending a lot of your money—your tax money. For 10 years, Druyun was the Air Force official who decided how much to pay for bombers, fighters, missiles—you name it … in 2000, she had enormous power over the C-130. Druyun was considering whether to pay Boeing $4 billion to update the planes. She had Boeing’s immediate future in her hands and she used some of her power to get something for herself.

Druyun called Michael Sears, the chief financial officer at Boeing, and asked him to arrange a job for her daughter’s fiancé, Michael McKee. Boeing set up the job right away. And then, three months later, with the contract still on the table, Druyun asked for a job for her daughter, Heather. Boeing again complied. You might be surprised that under Pentagon rules, that’s not illegal. Months after her daughter and now son-in-law went to work at Boeing, Druyun awarded Boeing the $4 billion contract. But that was just the beginning.
Next, Boeing presented an idea that was enormous, even for the Pentagon. It wanted to lease to the Air Force 100 767s as refuelling tankers. The cost: $23.5 billion. Critics thought the idea was much too expensive. But during the price negotiations, Boeing internal emails show that Druyun was siding with Boeing, not the Air Force.

In November 2002, Druyun accepted an offer to be deputy general manager of Boeing’s missile defence systems—with a $250,000 salary and a $50,000 signing bonus. And it didn’t last long … Sen. McCain’s investigation of the tanker deal uncovered the emails. Druyun pleaded guilty to a felony and has been sentenced to 16 months. Sears also pleaded guilty, and will be sentenced later. An audit by the Congressional Budget Office found Druyun’s tanker deal would have overcharged taxpayers nearly $6 billion. (“Cashing In For Profit?” CBS News, February 11, 2009.)

Vigilance comes with ownership. For bureaucrats tax dollars are monopoly money. Private individuals and corporations, who have to earn the money, understand exactly what it is worth. By contrast, this official was left unsupervised to overpay $6 billion dollars. (“Cashing In For Profit?” CBS News, February 11, 2009.)

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove