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Government Inefficiency

Our gas was shut off today. The gas company had a problem with our bill and shut off our gas without letting us know, while my roommate and I were out. We were not notified that there was a problem with our bill or that anyone was considering shutting off our gas.
So my roommate straightened everything out with the gas company, and they told him that they would be at the apartment sometime between two in the afternoon and eight in the evening.
Now, I won’t go into the fact that when someone you are paying for a service gives you a time estimate for a house visit, they are late over ninety-nine percent of the time.
I won’t complain about that because it didn’t actually happen this time - someone arrived at around three thirty in the afternoon. (Besides, everyone already knows how awful it is to be held hostage in your own house waiting for people who never show up.) The man came by and turned on the gas, and asked to check the burners at the stove. So he did, and then he asked if the water heater was electric. I didn’t know, so he wanted to check, but it was in the basement behind a locked door, and the super was out of town for the weekend. So the guy said he’d have to turn off the gas until I could get the door unlocked to the water heater, to make sure. He said they had people working until midnight and all day tomorrow, so I should call back so someone else could get out here to turn on the gas again.
So I waited for my roommate to come home, and he unscrewed a panel from the basement so we could get to the water cooler before the super got back. When I called the gas company back, I was only on hold for a few minutes (another pleasant surprise). Then when I explained the problem, the man told me that I had the wrong number, that this was an emergency line. Apparently not having gas is not an emergency for the gas company, so he gave me the other number.
I was on hold for at least another ten minutes (no, make it more like fifteen), before a lady got on the line and asked me my problem. I explained what happened, and she said she couldn’t get anyone out there for another week. They were booked tomorrow and couldn’t schedule me in. So, from what I had gathered from the situation so far, our gas was shut off due to a misunderstanding, the person who came to turn on our gas wanted to check something we’ve never had to have checked before and wouldn’t keep our gas on, and then they couldn’t get someone out there to turn on the gas for another week.
Did I mention that it was Fourth of July weekend and we needed to cook?
Oh yes, and bathe. I suppose we could bathe in cold water.
So then my roommate called back and tried to see if there was anything else he could do. When that didn’t work, he asked if there was any competition, or if we had to get our gas from them and we had no choice but to wait a week for gas.
I already knew the answer, but I wanted to hope it wasn’t true, for one brief moment.
When my roommate got off the phone, I started thinking about some of the problems we have because of monopolies. Yeah, it’s not something I’d have a problem with, normally I wouldn’t be complaining about monopolies, but the only place in this country where monopolies exist are in businesses where the government runs or subsidizes the business.
The Post Office. Utility companies. The commuter rail system.
Great.
People complain about monopolies all the time - in our phone companies, with computer giants like Bill Gates - even though there is nothing close to a monopoly in these industries today. Of course there isn’t. The government steps in before competition gets a chance to provide a better product.
But that’s a different rant. Back to the gas company.
The government doesn’t let private businesses get too close to a monopoly. But when it comes to the government stepping in and running businesses, the last thing the government would want is something competing with them.
Especially when any other private business would probably run any operation more effectively than the government. They’d have to; they’d have to make a profit and wouldn’t have the chance to get as much money as they wanted by taking it from people.
Oh, the government calls it a tax. My mistake.
How many times have you heard people complain - for that matter, how many times have you complained - about the long lines and the slow service at your local Post Office? Other than in an overnight package, where you’re paying for the immediacy of a next-day letter, what other opportunities do you have to mail a physical letter?
How many times have you tried to take a train across the country rather than fly? Why are the costs of taking a train comparable to flying when airplanes are faster and more expensive to build and maintain, especially when rail companies get government subsidies in order to stay afloat?
What do you do when your electricity goes out and they say they’ll come out between ten in the morning and two in the afternoon, so they make you stay home from work, and then, of course, they don’t even show up... What do you do - call another electric company for service?
What do you do when the gas company cuts off your gas and says they can’t turn it back on for another week?
Am I making my point here?
My roommate was working outside earlier today removing a tree for a client, but he had called the city’s electrical department and asked them to drop the street light wires on that block during the day. In fact, he called it in and faxed it in - and checked to make sure with the department that the power lines for the street lights would be down so he could cut down this tree. Well, you guessed it - he went there to do his work, and during the entire four hour period where the lines were supposed to be down, no one came by to do the work. In essence, my roommate lost business time because this certain government department didn’t do what they said they would.
If you were a private business and conducted business that poorly, you’d lose clients left and right. But when there’s no competition...
I was working with my roommate, waiting for these city employees to come to our job site and do their job. When I still thought they were going to show up and just be late, I thought of asking them if they liked paying more taxes. When they’d answer no, I’d have to ask them then why they are so inefficient - because it’s their inefficiency that causes taxes to go up, so we can pay more than we should for these services.
I imagine they can’t put two thoughts like that together, though.
Sorry. Now I’m just getting bitter.
But there would be not only increased efficiency in work and therefore better products and services and more choices if the government got out of these businesses, but there would also be less money in taxes to pay, since we wouldn’t be subsidizing the inefficiency of the existing government agencies with money we worked hard for.
My point? Well, I guess you get my point. Nobody likes have to deal with inefficiency, but no one stops to think of where it comes from or what to do about it.
So what do we do about it? Well, I suppose you could complain as much as I do, but then everyone would think that Americans were just a bunch of complainers. (Well, maybe we are...) We could stop voting for government officials who think we want them spending our money on ineffeciency.
Or we could tell our officials that they’re right, we don’t like monopolies... And the first ones we want to get rid of are the ones run by the government.
The government doesn’t have to be running companies for us - we’ve proven that we can do that well enough ourselves - in fact, we can run them better. It’s the government’s hold on companies and industries that’s strangling us.







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