Before anyone takes it upon himself to criticise the government, their own parents, their teachers, etc., consider this:
In a democracy, the government governs on behalf of the people. In a company, the managers manage on behalf of the shareholders.
Whenever we allow another party to act on our behalf, we encounter the principal-agent problem:
A disconnection or conflict between the objectives and goals of the principal and those of the agent authorized to represent the principal. The principal-agent problem arises because an agent is given the responsibility and authority to take actions that affect both the principal, but can also affect the agent. This problem is common in corporate management, where the principal is shareholders and the agent is managers. It is also common in government, where the principal is the public and the agent is elected leaders.
<quote>The problem arises where the two parties have different interests and asymmetric information (the agent having more information), such that the principal cannot directly ensure that the agent is always acting in its (the principal’s) best interests, particularly when activities that are useful to the principal are costly to the agent, and where elements of what the agent does are costly for the principal to observe.
Information asymmetry: an individual has the resources of a PC, while the government is like a supercomputer. An individual may pretend that he knows well, but the government almost always knows better (unless you’re some genius trying to introduce a paradigm shift). Likewise is the relationship between child and parent, student and teacher, etc.
The information asymmetry between individual and government is usually so great that it is not particularly meaningful for the individual to question the effectiveness of the government’s actions. The same is true to a lesser extent between child and parent, student and teacher, etc.
What then, are the meaningful steps we can take—whether individually or collectively—to ensure that the government faithfully serves our interests? This question is of course not trivial, and cannot be adequately answered here.
My purpose here is simply to point out the real problem that everyone (individually and collectively) needs to first understand, if his ultimate goal is to take meaningful steps to uphold his own interests. Real-world problems have many possible solutions of differing effectiveness; I shall leave the reader to discover the meaningful things that he can do in response.
Finally, here’s some practical advice on what NOT to do (Magicarp used splash! But nothing happened.):
Don’t pretend to know better than the government, unless you have really, really good reason to think otherwise, e.g. if you’re a genius specialising in a specific field, which increases the likelihood that you actually know better than the government in that specific area.
Don’t even begin to imagine that you can see the big picture better than the government. Your analytical power and access to statistical data will always be woefully inferior to that of the government. (Unless you’re, say, Bill Gates, or happen to own Google.)
Don’t disobey your government, parents, teachers, etc., unless you have really, really good reason to believe that you know better (see above). Obviously, how to know whether you know better is a huge problem in itself (Dunning-Kruger effect).
Don’t attempt to tackle a problem which you have not even begun to understand. Learn to appreciate intellectual honesty and humility; adopting these qualities is actually to everyone’s benefit, including your own.