After many years in Washington, D.C., it’s hard not to notice how little it has changed since President Kennedy called it “a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” It remains a town of jarring juxtapositions and contrasts. It has two political parties that dominate the ebb and flow of the policymaking process. It claims to represent the “free world” yet remains one of the most racially segregated cities in the U.S. It emits a sense of power yet shutters its doors and storefronts at the first hint of snow. It attracts highly educated globally minded citizens who fail to comprehend there is a real world beyond the Beltway.
And there is another contrast occurring this week.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) announced a campaign aimed at boosting the public’s appreciation for federal employees, touting the important work they do. AFGE national president David Cox, Sr., described the campaign as necessary to show the country that federal employees are also ordinary citizens – “taxpayers” and “Little League coaches” and “people.”
Cue the snarky response.
Nobody doubts federal workers are people, coaches, church choir members, and your next-door neighbor. I live in the D.C. metro region, so I come into contact with federal employees at every social, sporting, religious, and neighborhood function I attend. Humanizing the average “bureaucrat” will do nothing to change my opinion that, as Ronald Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
In contrast to Reagan’s admonition, the current Bureaucrat-in-Chief has become quite effective at using his “pen and phone” strategy to issue mounds of executive orders that will do nothing more than create government barriers to economic innovation and entrepreneurship. He may be a great Dad, or neighbor, or taxpayer, or coach, but his actions in the Oval Office do not warrant an appreciation campaign.
In contrast with AFGE’s attempt to promote gratitude for government workers, there is a parallel campaign to generate thanks for those who do make the world a better place.
On Saturday, March 29, the Competitive Enterprise Institute will sponsor Human Achievement Hour, an annual celebration of individual freedom and appreciation of the achievements and innovations throughout history that have improved people’s lives. To celebrate Human Achievement Hour, participants need only to spend from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm enjoying the benefits of capitalism and human innovation: Gather with friends in the warmth of a heated home, watch television, take a hot shower, have a dram of whisky, call a loved one on the phone, listen to music, or whatever strikes your fancy.
Human Achievement Hour is a direct response to Earth Hour, organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Observers of Earth Hour will spend the same Saturday hour in darkness as a symbolic vote against global climate change, a call for world leaders to “do something” about pollution and energy use. In other words, they want politicians to use legal mandates and punitive taxes to prevent individuals from freely using resources, hindering our ability to create the solutions and technologies of the future. By their reasoning, rolling brownouts in India are a desirable outcome.
Symbolically or not, Earth Hour does little to protect the environment. Instead, it is a misguided effort that completely ignores how modern technology allows societies around the world to develop new and more sustainable practices that help humans thrive as we better conserve our natural resources.
By contrast, Human Achievement Hour is about paying tribute to the human innovations that have allowed people around the globe to live better, fuller lives, while defending the basic human right to use energy to improve the quality of life of all people. Instead of looking to the “dark ages,” as Earth Hour might suggest, Human Achievement Hour promotes the idea that we should look to technology and innovation to help solve environmental problems.
Feeling guilty about prospering has never solved any major world problem, but a free market that encourages the human innovation that gives us the methods to create cheaper, cleaner energy, just might. If you want to hear more, log onto iHeartRadio (Saturdaymorning at 10 am on WJMN 1200 am/WXKS 94.5 fm) to hear “The Real Clear Radio Hour with Bill Frezza” as he interviews Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, and Marian Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org.
In promoting the government union appreciation campaign, AFGE president said, “This [campaign] is a lot about telling the story of who we are and the fact we are people behind all of the government services that go on in this country.
“All of the government services…” Yep, there’s the problem. Time to just turn their lights out.