Private Does It Better
This is apparently an old story from a couple years ago, but I just came across it. First, the story:
Their livelihood was being threatened, and they were tired of waiting for government help, so business owners and residents on Hawaii’s Kauai island pulled together and completed a $4 million repair job to a state park — for free.
…Polihale State Park has been closed since severe flooding destroyed an access road to the park and damaged facilities in December.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources had estimated that the damage would cost $4 million to fix, money the agency doesn’t have, according to a news release from department Chairwoman Laura Thielen.
…And if the repairs weren’t made, some business owners faced the possibility of having to shut down.
…So Slack, other business owners and residents made the decision not to sit on their hands and wait for state money that many expected would never come. Instead, they pulled together machinery and manpower and hit the ground running March 23.
And after only eight days, all of the repairs were done, Pleas said. It was a shockingly quick fix to a problem that may have taken much longer if they waited for state money to funnel in.
It would be easy to take a story like this and generalize about the uselessness of government, but I don’t want to overstate the lesson here. This is a very particularly case that is not likely to be applicable in many other situations. Specifically, the residents had a very strong financial interest in restoring access to the park, enough to overcome the collective action and free-rider problems.
But what strikes me as really interesting is the stark contrast between the cost estimates by the government and the amount of work it actually took from the volunteers. The government needed $4 million dollars to do what a handful of volunteers got done in eight days. That is a shocking amount of waste and incompetence, and this sort of thing probably goes unnoticed every single day. Only this time, because folks got together to act, we were able to see clearly just how incompetent government is.
If ever there was proof for the inefficiency and waste inherent in government, this is it. The lesson here is not that government is necessarily unneeded, but rather that anything which can be accomplished by some other means than government, should be.