I haven’t always been a radical libertarian. In fact, from 2000 to 2008 I was a proud member of the United States Army who bought the Neoconservative political philosophy hook, line, and sinker. I willingly participated in the mistake known as Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 2003 to May 2004, and then found a government job as an Army civilian that I stayed in until 2007 when the gradual shift towards libertarianism made me look for an honest line of work.
For 2 years I worked in the motor pool of a Joint Reserve Base where we maintained the vehicles and equipment for local Army Reserve Units. The facility was staffed by civilians who were also mechanics in the United States Army Reserve, and our job was to keep the local units ready for war. We did that job, but it took twice the time and people that it should have.
Our official work schedule was Monday through Thursday from 0700 hours until 1700 hours, and while we did all clock in before 0700, and clock out at 1700, we weren’t necessarily all working hard in between. For starters, nearly everyone smoked, and always spent from 0700 until 0900 drinking coffee, reading the paper, and talking. Lunch was officially from 1200 hours to 1230 hours, but always lasted until 1300 hours because the Price is Right and Mash were on. Lunch even occasionally lasted until 1400 hours if someone had a copy of the latest American Legion or VFW documentaries that came out each month. Around 1600 hours we would gather around the TV to watch the afternoon news. That’s 4 hours each day that we never worked, plus, we got 2 hours per week to work out so we could meet the Army’s physical fitness standard. That’s 22 working hours per week given the 4-10 schedule.
The incompetent government worker is a commonly held stereotype that is not entirely false. Sure, there are a lot of hard-working, dedicated people in the government, but there are also a shocking number of people who are lazy, stupid, and completely aware that they are spending their whole lives wasting your tax dollars. Nothing ever happens to these people. They are never fired, rarely disciplined, and almost always receive satisfactory performance reviews and yearly bonuses, because to do otherwise would reflect badly on their superiors. I’d say the number of worthless people in the government is around 40%, and believe that you could cut the government workforce by almost half with nothing but positive effects for the taxpayers and the remaining workers. I am going to illustrate this point with 5 examples of real people that I knew while working for the government; although I did not use their real names.
First, there was the boss, who we will call Fred. Fred held the title of supervisor, and he was a total drunk. He would start the day with a big cup of coffee, but would be on to Budweiser or Crown Royal and Pepsi by 1000 hours. He was frequently falling down drunk by early afternoon, and chain smoked all day long. You had to carefully inspect any vehicle that Fred drove in because there were likely beer cans either under the seats or so deep on the floor that they would literally spill out when you opened the door. Fred would also piss anywhere the urge struck him, including on the tires of trucks that were being worked on in the shop. Fred’s saving grace was that he had served in Vietnam with his immediate boss, made sure to be sober the one day a year his regional boss showed for inspection, and gave everyone glowing performance reviews. They threw him a big party when he retired after 35 years of getting drunk on the job.
Fred’s second in command was Brad, and he used to drink as much as Fred did, but sobered up a decade before I got there due to a health scare. Brad held the position of wage leader and was nicknamed ‘The Ghost” because he was rarely seen. He had control of one of the two government minivans allocated to the shop, and he put that van to good use. He spent most of his “working hours” running errands for his wife and kids, and visiting with the people on base he had developed friendships with over the last 30 years. In the spring and summer he’s go home to mow his lawn or spend all afternoon hunting for golf balls along the fence of the golf course. Brad also ran a coffee and uniform racket where he made private deals with the suppliers and charged a bunch of guys a set amount per week for coffee and uniform service. He also ran lottery and sports playoff pools. Brad is also now retired, and spends his retirement much the same way he spent his working years.
That brings us to Mike. Mike had an ingenious method of sleeping on the job. He would lie down on his creeper, roll under the truck, and zip tie his hands to the axle above his head so it looked like he was working. Of course, we all knew Mike was sleeping, we just didn’t care. In fact, we preferred a sleeping Mike to a working Mike, because any truck that Mike touched got worse, not better. We spent a substantial amount of our limited working hours trying to figure out how to fix what Mike broke. He also had a habit of opening all of the top drawers of his rolling toolbox, causing it to tip over on top of him. You would think that would only happen once, or maybe twice, but I swear it happened at least half a dozen times. We thought for a while that Mike was trying to score a work disability, but then we found out that he was already collecting full disability from the Veterans Administration. How a man seemingly so dumb, could collect full disability from the Veterans Administration, while serving in the Army Reserve and working a theoretically labor intensive civilian Army job is something I still can’t wrap my head around.
Finally, there was Tony. Tony didn’t drink, disappear, or sleep on the job. In fact, Tony could always be found at his work bench when he should be. He just wasn’t doing what he should have been doing. Tony would read the paper, do the crossword puzzle, Sudoku, and jumble, and then spent most of the rest of the day reading novels. He was heavy into Tom Clancy at the time I was there. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw the guy get dirty, and that’s no small feat for a mechanic.
Maybe you don’t yet agree with the view that the state shouldn’t exist, and that everything should occur privately and voluntarily. I certainly didn’t believe it at the time I had my government job. Like most government workers, I never thought about all of the tax payers that had to work so Fred could drink, or Brad could run errands in a government van. Then one day, after looking at the deductions on my pay stub, I made a comment about all the money I lost to taxes. “How the fuck do you think we all get paid?” said Frank in a moment of clarity. This was one of the little red pills that moved me towards the path I’m on today.