As the alchemist attributed his successive disappointments to some disproportion in the ingredients, some impurity, or some too great temperature, and never to the futility of his process or the impossibility of his aim; so, every failure of State-regulations the law-worshipper explains away as being caused by this trifling oversight, or that little mistake: all which oversights and mistakes he assures you will in future be avoided.

—Herbert Spencer. Over-legislation, 1853.

The private sector prevents delusional tinkerers from repeating their mistakes by removing resources from them. Unfortunately, there is no such mechanism to control government tinkering. To ‘help’ the poor, government officials first introduced rent control, which prevented landlords from earning sufficient income from their properties to maintain them. Having created slums, they next passed coercive building codes to force the landlords to maintain their properties but landlords instead opted to abandon them. The legislators then decided the wretches that inhabited the hellholes they had created deserved better, so they began building public housing. But the inhabitants, robbed of all independence and incentive, continued to degenerate morally, so the government employed armies of social workers to ‘counsel’ them and help them ‘access government services.’ At no stage did they stop and question the folly of meddling; as each stage failed, they insisted that a little more socialism would solve the problem.

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