Alaska, the Welfare State

In 2002, for every $1 paid by residents of alaska to the united states government in the form of taxes, $1.91 in federal funds was sent back to the state, more money per person than anywhere else in the country. Of course, little of this money, $11,540 per capita, was refunded directly to the individuals from whom it was confiscated. Of the $7,400,000,000 in federal expenditures in the state, $3,100,000,000 took the form of grants to state and local governments, and $1,400,000,000 went to the military, while only $1,000,000,000 or so went to social security, veterans benefits and federal pensions. With all this federal money floating around, it is no surprise that, of approximately 300,700 non-farm alaska jobs as of May 2003, 84,000 positions were in one branch or another of government: 16,900 federal (excluding uniformed military); 24,800 state; and 42,300 local (including 3400 “tribal”). Government programs of various kinds play a huge role in the state economy, with non-military “public” sector jobs comprising 27% of the workforce. In Anchorage, the air force is the largest employer, while 50% of employed people in the state’s second largest city, Fairbanks, work for some branch of government (military included).

And what do we get for all this federal largesse? An army that controls huge tracts of land in the city of Anchorage, which it now plans to fence off so it can more safely practice killing people. A deputy attorney-general who has denied DNA testing that might exculpate a prisoner, because she believes “the legal system needs finality.” An Anchorage assembly that has nothing better to do than restrict the ability of panhandlers to take donations from drivers, while firefighters are allowed to tie up traffic at intersections while collecting money from drivers for some officially sanctioned charity. A state development agency that spent $100,000 a month to keep a failing “private” Anchorage seafood business afloat. A public school system in Anchorage run by bureaucrats who believe failure is success, poverty is wealth, and segregation is diversity. Another school system in Fairbanks where a student whose eyes are red from studying can be expelled for refusing a piss test for drugs. Handouts to property developers in Anchorage who pay only 15% of the cost to prepare lots for building, the rest of the funds coming from those who pay property taxes. And a federal forest “service” that spent $34,800,000,000 to generate revenue of $1,200,000,000, subsidizing the profits of wealthy industrialists

Much of the government operations in this state are dedicated to “managing” wildlife and government-owned park lands, and, as in most areas, the bureaucrats do an abysmal job. The federal occupation of the Pribilof Islands, for instance, has resulted in so much environmental damage, that it will cost $100,000,000 to remove the blight caused by various federal agencies which managed the fur seal trade. Regulators presume to grant monopoly rights to favored seafood processors, and prevent fishers from selling their harvest to the buyer of their choice. Biologists “manage” the fisheries by over-producing salmon which are then stripped of their eggs, ground-up, and disposed of in the ocean. Our parks and recreation areas are plagued with uniformed bullies who believe they know better than the rest of us how to care for and enjoy the land and animals around us and torment so-called inholders who wish to continue living on property the government wants to take. “Experts” drug, tag, collar, monitor, harass, and kill whatever animals they choose, “for their own good,” of course, but then presume to regulate everyone else’s encounters with other species. Government oversight of animals plants, and land has led to environmental destruction, waste and abuse of animals, good salaries for interventionist busybodies and paper-pushers, increased profits for favored corporations, and harassment of people who dare to defend their freedom to live and enjoy nature in ways of which our masters disapprove.

Another product of government action, and one unique to alaska are the so-called “native” corporations, which were formed years ago as part of a settlement of land claims by eskimo, indian, and aleut alaskans. While many individual share-holders in these businesses receive regular dividends, they have served primarily to aggrandize the people who run and control these operations, as well as their business associates and partners, many of whom are not alaskan, “native” or otherwise. Just as in any other corporate enterprise, the directors and officers receive inflated salaries, while regular workers are laid off when it pleases the managers. Besides owing their very existence to government decree, these corporations exploit the preferences they are granted by discriminatory federal laws to win lucrative federal contracts, and reward their “private” sector partners with generous portions of the take. Although they purport to enrich and empower people whose lives and livelihoods were wrecked by both government and private theft and abuse, “native“ corporations have been no more beneficial to their customers or caring to their employees than any other government-business partnership.

While oil production, mining, fisheries, and tourism produce much real wealth, and there is a strong service sector in the alaskan economy, without federal money, and the huge military presence in the state, alaska could not exist in the form it does today. An alaska without government would mean no military, no park rangers, no government schools, and no handouts to corporations. It would also mean no permanent fund dividend and no tax-supported road building. People would be really free to live, work, and play as they choose, but they would not be able to send someone else the bill. Individual liberty requires individual responsibility. Until people decide to declare their independence from government and coercion, alaska will continue to be not a haven of freedom, but a welfare state where the limited freedoms we enjoy are not ours for the taking, but are granted to us by people and institutions that can later turn around and restrict or abolish them if they so desire.

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