Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ben Stein Defends Government Workers

Speaking on CBS, Ben Stein gave a strong defense of government workers against what he sees as unfair demonization by fellow conservatives.  
There is a basic assumption among many of us conservatives that bothers me. Basically, the assumption is that if a person is a government employee, then he or she is lazy and shiftless, a parasite just eating up tax dollars without doing anything. 

"Bureaucrats" is what the sneering expression usually is.

Stein goes on to point out that government worker do important jobs, and include people like cops, firefighters, and CIA agents, who are generally popular with conservatives.
Let's take our conservative noses out of the air and stop sneering at the people who serve us in the civil service. We would be awfully sad if they were gone, even the ones in the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Much of what Stein says is true, but he's beating a strawman. When people complain about "bureaucrats," they don't mean cops, firefighters, teachers and CIA agents. And for the most part, they are complaining about the system and how the government conducts business, rather than about the individual people involved. Praising government workers as necessary and valuable is every bit as big a gross over-generalization, as is demonizing them. Many government agencies, from the federal level, right down to local boards, have well-earned reputations for inefficiency, poor service, and horrible relations with individual members of the public they are supposed to be serving. Stein's comment about the DMV is idiotic. Most people would certainly not miss all the regulation and nonsense that involves even the most basic dealings with those state agencies -- at least the ones I've been to. Somehow I think I could manage to operate a vehicle just fine without the assistance of anyone at a department of motor vehicles.

There are plenty of good people serving in government jobs. I actually deal with government workers on a daily basis, and the vast majority of the people I come into contact with are as friendly and helpful as anyone in a non-government position. But they have to operate under the constraints of the inefficiency, maze of rules and regulations, and sheer stupidity that characterizes much of how our government entities do business. When someone receives good service from a government agency, you probably won't hear him railing against "bureaucrats." But the poor reputation of bureaucrats doesn't come from some sort of conservative prejudice -- as Stein seems to think -- but from the real world experience of people who see how much money the government spends, how many workers they hire, and how inefficiently the government conducts its business.


  1. Well, what do you expect from the guy who brought us "No Intelligence Allowed" and who is now shilling for freecreditreport dot com? Stein's credibility is in the negative numbers.

  2. Considering that half the US population believes in YEC, by who and what standard is Stein's reputation negative?