Commentary by Jeff Burgar
The nice lady working alongside me at the bingo hall scowled.
“Look at all these people here. Most of them are on welfare or some kind of government check. They get their money. Then they come down here and pee it away on bingo. Disgusting!”
“Look at it this way,” I said. “Alberta sends a whole bunch of money to Ottawa. This is one way of getting some of that money back. If the checks weren’t coming back to Alberta, they would be going to Quebec or the Maritimes. Just be happy we’re getting money for our community projects, no matter how it goes around in circles.”
The lady rolled her eyes at me.
This is sort of the problem we all get ourselves mixed up in when we talk about government money. Or more exactly, talk about the ways politicians piddle our so-called “hard earned tax dollars” down every drain or hole they can spot, except potholes. Seems that way, anyway.
Actually, the more money going around in circles, the better off we all are. At least, as long as it is going around our part of the country. Governments big and small, and their departments and quasi-agencies, seem to be still adding to themselves and growing. A lot of that is just momentum from last year and years before. No matter what, it’s work keeping people on payrolls. It supports people cutting trees and processing lumber. Mining. People driving trucks and drilling for oil. Refineries processing fuel. All the people pushing paper. Educating children and young adults. Manning the hospital emergency room. Fixing mechanical stuff everywhere. The lists are endless.
The alternative, possibly, is instead of money in the mail or auto-deposit, everybody sits at home, waiting for a horse drawn wagon bringing barrels of gruel. About the fourth day of nothing but porridge, that pizza joint that used to be down the road starts to look really, really good. Maybe we could have swapped sweeping the sidewalk or cleaning the washrooms for a decent double pepperoni. Hey, isn’t that where money really started? A way to fix values on work and goods? A way to make hours worked portable and easy to exchange for shelter, clothes, food and even entertainment? Yes indeed.
Along the way, the world grew into cars and trucks, restaurants, social media, newspapers, movies, video games, pavement and flush toilets. Isn’t life grand?
These days of course, governments flood the market with wonderful money. It’s really just a big step up from checks in the mail, like subsidies, social assistance, and pensions. Supposedly, keep everybody afloat until we all get to “normal.”
Despite the money, there are failures big and small. Governments will keep on spending, as they probably should. Which means more borrowing and bigger, immense debts. Yet, as long as that money comes around to our local communities, one way or another, just like that bingo money, it isn’t all bad.