I just spent thirty or forty minutes driving to the nearest DMV office, sitting in a chair, and then getting my picture taken so bureaucrats could issue me a little piece of plastic that is nearly identical to the little piece of plastic I already had. This was the fastest and most efficient experience I ever recall having at the DMV.
I’m guessing that so far, you don’t find this story very thrilling. However, there is a reason I bring it up.
It is almost impossible to fully comprehend the extent to which “government” acts as a giant drain on society. It does so in so many ways by using up people’s time, money and energy, inflicting stress on them, and putting obstacle after obstacle in the way of people who are just trying to live their lives and get stuff done. Today I want to point out how even the most mundane, seemingly innocuous aspect of “government” constitutes a massive waste of time and energy.
The reason I went to the DMV today was not because I really, really wanted to have a very slightly different piece of plastic in my wallet. No, as with most people who go there, it was purely an act of self-defense. I know that if the badge-wearing thugs of the state catch me driving without that piece of plastic—the one that says that the politicians have given me their holy legislative permission to drive a car—then bad things might happen to me, up to and including me getting kidnapped and caged (or shot, if I chose to resist). So, while I feel no moral obligation to possess that piece of plastic, I got one so that the mindless drones of the state don’t do nasty things to me. (That’s the same reason I have a “permit” to carry a concealed firearm.)
I am guessing that that is the same reason almost everyone at the DMV today was there: because the “law” says that they have to have their own little pieces of plastic in order to avoid being fined or imprisoned for being “criminals.” Looking around the room there I counted about a hundred people, mostly mere peasants, along with maybe a dozen or so state bureaucrats. That seems to be about the usual crowd in there.
Think about what that means. All day, every business day, around a hundred people are sitting around in that room. Of course, it’s not the same people all day, or day after day, but it still means that in that one room, around 800 man-hours of productivity are wasted every day. That is the equivalent of hiring a hundred people, full time, indefinitely, to produce absolutely nothing of value. And that is one DMV office. There are over fifty others in Pennsylvania.
So, roughly speaking, that means that the equivalent of around five thousand people in Pennsylvania spend day after day, year after year, producing nothing of real value for society, just for the sake of having those pieces of plastic.
Now add to that the fact that most of the people there were forced to pay for the “privilege” of sitting around for a while getting nothing done. (They don’t give those stupid pieces of plastic away for free, ya know!) So not only does the process waste the equivalent of an entire work day for five thousand people every day, but it also costs the victims (they are not customers) thousands of dollars every day to fund the idiotic spectacle. And remember, these numbers are based on the process being as fast and efficient as I have ever seen it. So on average it may be even worse.
For perspective, here are five thousand very small smiley faces:
How much would five thousand people, working full time for an entire year, have contributed to society? Instead, all that time and effort is wasted, day after day, year after year, just so Pennsylvanians can get a new stupid piece of plastic every four years. And, of course, that is downright trivial compared to many of the other ways in which “government” wastes the time, energy and resources of productive people.
"But if not for government, who would waste everyone's time and money?"