The Federal Government: A Benevolent and Beneficial Monopoly?

Carly Rinehart

A monopoly can be defined as the exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market [1]. Monopolies lack the desire to innovate and please consumers because, simply put, why should they if they are the only ones to come to for a service? Using this context, our own federal government can be considered to have a monopoly over federal spending, because there is no other group that can distribute our tax money. Some may think this is great as it gives us a central power that will always look out for the best interest of the people. However, while it may be necessary for our government to control particular things, such as public health and major infrastructure, the government’s ability to appropriately lead many of its sectors is often overstated. While it can only be the government’s job to choose where our tax dollars go, the government’s ability to appropriately allocate federal spending can sometimes seem to resemble the ability of a kid in a candy shop to keep from spending his entire allowance. As Charles Wheelan stated in Naked Economics, “Government is good at doing some things and tragically bad at doing others,” and one of those things which they are “tragically bad at” is appropriate federal spending [2].

According to The Federalist, in 2014, the government spent $171,000 studying how monkeys gamble, $856,000 on filming mountain lions running on treadmills, and over $800,000, funded by The National Institutes of Health, to make a video game about food fights [3]. These are just the beginning of a list of essentially pointless projects that the government decided deserved attention that could have been focused on medical research, reducing poverty, and countless other areas that deserve priority over observing monkeys to find out if they have a “hot-hand bias” or not [3].

When our tax money is spent on projects which ultimately end up either flunking or not proving all too useful to society as a whole (or really to anyone for that matter), our tax money is wasted and our economy lacks the growth and development it could potentially obtain if the government kept their eye on what would truly better our society as a whole [4].

To stop federal spending as a whole would be detrimental to society as this would fail to provide an incentive for the funding of many projects that we do need to pursue. Therefore, we must find an incentive for the government to prioritize the funding of more urgent and useful projects over the more trivial studies. One way to do this could be to create two different categories of federally-funded projects: one category for those which are considered important and extremely useful such as research for cancer treatments and one for those which can be considered less pivotal to society, such as research on monkeys gambling. The government could be given a certain percentage of their funding that must go toward the more important projects, and there could be a maximum amount of money that could be allocated to the less important projects. This is just an idea as to how we could minimize the amount of our taxes going toward frivolous projects, but it is important for us to consider ways to create incentives for the government to work in favor of the people in terms of federal spending and in all other sectors which they control.


Works Cited

  1. “Monopoly.” Accessed June 18, 2017.
  2. Charles J. Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012), 80.
  3. Budget. “Wastebook 2014: Eight Absurd Government Projects Funded By Your Money.” The Federalist. October 27, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2017.
  4. Charles J. Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012), 87.

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