Administrative state creeps along, always growing, always costing more

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By Harold Morgan

The tax boys want additional information for your 2016 return, starting with your driver’s license number. If claiming certain credits for children, you must prove the kid lives with you, which, says my tax preparer, “gets really interesting if the kid is between zero and four.”
Besides treading on our liberty, the requirements raise costs and provide another definition of what is being called “the administrative state.”
In his March 5 Washington Post column, Robert Samuelson, one of my favorite analysts, quoting historian Steven Hayward from the current issue of the conservative Claremont Review of Books, wrote, “The administrative state represents a new and pervasive form of rule, and a perversion of constitutional self-government.” Samuelson concluded, “Like it or not, we do have an administrative state. It isn’t going away.”
The simplest compliance with the new IRS rules will require about 20 minutes, estimates my tax preparer. There will be a modest charge for one new form. Otherwise the changes mean less sleep and no new clients this year, which means that the IRS has prevented the business from growing.
Another favorite source, Megan McArdle of Bloomberg.com, in a Feb. 14 post linked to a long consideration of why everything costs more.
“Considerations on Cost Disease” was Scott Alexander’s 8,000-word essay at  slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost-disease. Basically, spending on housing, education, health care and public transportation is way, way up—ten fold in some cases— over the years without an equivalent increase in results and without the professionals such as teachers and doctors making much more money. Alexander can’t figure out why.
Alexander worked on the big picture. A street level view can help.
In 2011, Albuquerque, long since captured by anti-mobility ideologues, built an island to partly block traffic on a minor arterial street near my house. It must be painted periodically because cars run into it because of limited turning space and put black splotches on the pretty yellow paint with their tires. A willow tree grew in a crack last year. Now it is about two feet tall. Costs include wages, paint, the truck for the workers and replacing the reflectors knocked over by cars. Then there will be getting rid of the willow.
Street signs, courtesy of a 2004 Federal Highway Administration ruling, now have both capital letters and lower case. Signs were all capital letters forever. Some Google research uncovers the cost of street signs in New York City—$110 each. I suspect that figure does not include the people cost for installation. Someone has to drive the truck, bolt the bolts and track new sign installation.
Highways have an inexorable creep toward “higher” standards. Wider shoulders and medians are examples.  
Color laser printers now are a must. The cost of the ink is several times the cost of black printer ink. Schools love those flashing electronic signs.
In the current legislative session, the ideologically disparate Sens. Sander Rue, Albuquerque Republican, and Jeff Steinborn, Las Cruces Democrat, offered Senate Memorial 119 seeking a study by the Tourism and Economic Development departments of “creating a state office of outdoor recreation and the economic potential of recruiting outdoor recreation… industries.”
A legislative analysis guessed that the study would take staff time and cost $50,000, with the money coming from the operations fund of each department, thereby negatively affecting existing budgeted activity. The whole idea is redundant, the analysis said, with outdoor recreation activity getting attention from the Tourism Department, not to mention Game and Fish, and firms being on the recruiting horizon of the New Mexico Partnership, which itself suffers from lack of money and administration inattention.
But the proposed office would give the senators “an accomplishment.” Ah, ha.