So When Are We Allowed to Be Intolerant?

I passed a television today and was compelled to stop and watch what proved to be a mesmerizing message from a commercial/PSA.  The commercial had many participants, all of them wearing tee-shirts with the phrase "Don't stand for intolerance" on them.  After we viewer was able to read their tee-shirts, all of the participants sat down.

Presumably they were refusing to stand for intolerance.  Is the converse true?  Do their actions mean that they, by implication, stand for tolerance?

And what about us?  Are we supposed to be tolerant of actions we find abhorrent?

Let's examine behavior in some specific areas and see if we are to be tolerant or intolerant of recent results and/or actions.

The growth of government is phenomenal.  Today, at the federal level, there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) as in all of manufacturing (11.5 million).  More Americans work for the federal government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining, and utilities combined.

The danger of a growing government that it is paid for by fewer and fewer taxpayers.  While it is true that government employees pay taxes, they seldom (if ever) pay enough taxes ($11,378 in 2008, calculated from Table 482, as an average for all taxpayers) to offset their salaries and benefits ($123,049 in 2009).  At some point, this unsustainable fiscal model will collapse. 

The amount of federal spending for government programs (not employees) grew from 28.3% of the federal budget in 1962 to 48.5% in 1990, and to 70.5% in 2011.   Governments at all levels continue to run deficits, to spend money they don't have, to mortgage our grandchildren's futures.  And the federal debt has increased from $10 trillion in FY2008 to $16.4 trillion in FY2012.

Are we supposed to be tolerant of government growth?  Or can we be intolerant?

Reductions in government employment costs are often blocked by unions.  States and cities could save as much as 50% of the cost of many services, such as police work, firefighting, public transportation, garbage-collection, administrative functions, and prison operations, through competitive bidding to private contractors.  But unions have blocked many of these efforts.   Public employees maintain that they are underpaid when compared to private-sector workers that are equally qualified, yet they are afraid of competitive bidding for government services.  If they are underpaid, of what are these people afraid?

Are we supposed to tolerate union actions?  Or are we justified at being intolerant?

Education, a core function of state and local governments, is an industry where performance is measured by inputs rather than by outputs.  If the quality of performance decreases, governments at all levels say we're not paying teachers enough, or we need smaller class sizes, or newer schools, or we need more money to throw at the problem.  Between 1970 and 2005, school spending per pupil, adjusted for inflation, doubled, while standardized achievement test scores did not improve.  Over almost that same time period, public-school employment doubled per student.

In 2010, only 32% of U.S. students were rated proficient in mathematics, falling as a country between Portugal and Italy.  But they were far behind South Korea, Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands.  In Shanghai, China, 75% of students tested proficient in mathematics.  Worldwide, the U.S. ranked 25th in math proficiency.  Similar ranking in reading and science proficiency were recorded.  Only 31% were rated as proficient in reading, and 21% were proficient in science, yielding rankings of 14th in reading and 17th in science.  While those scores were improved from 2003 and 2006, there is still quite a bit of room for improvement.

Are we supposed to be tolerant or intolerant of the education industry's performance in our country?

Practically lifetime employment for government civil servants lets servants hide from the basic system of reward and punishment, thus the system breeds mediocrity.  Additionally, without reward for superior performance, civil servants have no reason to do anything but the bare minimum -- especially considering that employers are not able to fire underperformers.

As a specific example, consider what happened in Dayton, Ohio, in February 2011.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the Dayton, Ohio Police Department to lower its testing standards to increase the number of minority candidates who passed the two-part examination.  The passing scores for the exam were reduced from 66% to 58%, and from 72% to 63%.

The DOJ acted because, in its opinion, not enough minorities were passing the test, but the ultimate result was that the DOJ order guaranteed the continuance of mediocrity through lower civil servant standards.  Those who studied, who prepared, who worked to pass the exam were not rewarded for their efforts -- indeed, they were penalized.  Those who were marginal and would have originally failed the tests gained passing marks through no action or effort of their own.  Lowering standards meant that more applicants passed the exam, thereby furthering mediocrity.

Are we supposed to be tolerant or intolerant of the continuation of mediocrity?

Have you heard of Sandra Fluke?  She is the Georgetown "co-ed" who is actually a  women's rights activist.  Further, she is 30 years old, not 23 as was initially reported.  She testified before Representative Nancy Pelosi's House Democrat Steering and Policy committee meeting held to promote President Barack Obama's mandate that virtually every health insurance plan should cover the full cost of contraception and abortion-inducing products.  In essence, according to Fluke, the women at the Georgetown Law School are having so much sex that they are going broke paying for their own birth control, so you and I should pay for her and their contraception.

Are we supposed to be tolerant of Fluke's behavior?

I have addressed recent actions and behavior in five specific areas.  I'm quite certain that you readers can add to the areas cited -- areas in which you're as happy to stand for intolerance as I am.

Dr. Beatty earned a Ph.D. in quantitative management and statistics from Florida State University.  He was a (very conservative) professor of quantitative management specializing in using statistics to assist/support decision-making.  He has been a consultant to many small businesses and is now retired.  Dr. Beatty is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years.  He blogs at