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With Minnesota’s government shutdown there has been lots of right wing talk about government waste. I am really sick of hearing about this as if it were an accepted fact and as if no one else has any wasted time, money, energy or other resources.

Groups of people from small family units to large institutions waste resources. I almost think it is part of human nature. We are, after all, not robots.

Business likes to pretend that, because it exists to make a profit, it never wastes. Groups of people standing around the coffee pot talking sports or about their kids are “building relationships” or “building community.” They are also probably wasting time in the eyes of some. I am very familiar with business waste. Oh the stories I could tell.

My favorite eliminating waste story was an across the board cutback that included cancelling all standing purchase orders. Brilliant. One of the orders cancelled was for the contractors who fed the $35,000 (1980 price) rare electric eel who lived in a tank in the atrium. The eel was on loan from the Chairman of the Board and company founder and was dead on Monday morning. How dare we focus only on government waste?

I have a passing acquaintance with academia. I was an adjunct professor for a while. The academy has its own version of waste: meetings that go on forever. They have high standards and rigorous disciplines but they are not exempt from waste. Would you call it waste if a professor or a teacher took extra time to encourage your child to be their best? Occasionally institutions of higher learning are mocked for some of the things they study, but really, how dare we focus only on government waste?

Waste, aside from the obvious, is part of the human condition. Forget about institutions for a minute and just think about families. In fact think about your refrigerator. Americans throw out tons of food every year. We may wait until we can’t quite identify the food because it is covered with green stuff, but still, think of the waste. How dare we focus only on government waste?

Government waste? I don’t buy it for a minute that government is the sole creator of waste in our society. I wish that we would just own up to the idea that all of us, institutionally speaking and as individuals create waste. I wish we’d get onto talking about conserving those resources like gasoline and energy that we truly waste. I wish we’d get onto thinking about how to change our attitudes about conservation and ditch the talk about government waste as if it was the only violator and not a force for good in many peoples lives, including mine.

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