Bad Government is Worse than a Bad Santa

Reuters reports trouble at the North Pole:

Canada's post office and police are trying to track down a "rogue elf" who wrote obscene letters to children on behalf of Santa Claus.

The Ottawa Citizen said at least 10 nasty letters had been delivered to little girls and boys in Ottawa who wrote to Santa this year care of the North Pole, which has a special H0H 0H0 Canadian postal code. Return letters from Santa are in fact written by an 11,000-strong army of Canada Post employees and volunteers.  [emphasis added]

Canada Post's popular "Write to Santa" program -- which last year delivered more than a million letters to children in Canada and around the world -- has been shut down in Ottawa until the offender is caught.

This story tells you just about all you need to know about government:

  • Government loves to play Santa Claus to little kids so that when they grow up, they'll believe that government can deliver benefits without costing them anything.
  • "Write to Santa" sends out a million letters per year written by an army of 11,000 surrogate Santas.  One bad apple writes ten nasty letters and they shut down the program.  That's about as sensible as the American FDA pulling cough syrup off the market because a few parents don't follow directions.  Overreaction is typical of government.
  • How are they going to catch the perp without a confession?  If there were fingerprints, Salacious Santa would have already been bagged.  They have 11,000 suspects; the letters could have come from anywhere.  Are they going to quiz all 11,000 Surrogate Santas?  Haven't the police anything better to do?

Paying government employees to lie to kids...  Shutting down a program when there are 10 bad letters in a million...  Setting impossible conditions from starting again...

What more do you need to know about government?

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments
Wow. There is so much misinformation in this article that it almost doesn't deserve the dignity of a reply.

First of all, nobody is PAID to write those letters. You'll notice that it is VOLUNTEER Canada Post employees and retirees that write the letters. (Reuters got the wording a little wrong, but you certainly were able to use that to your benefit)

Second, the entire program wasn't shut down, as is clearly stated in article you cited. Only in a single city, Ottawa, was the program shut down. Of course, that doesn't sound so dramatic, now does it?

Was it ridiculous to shut down the program in Ottawa, as you state? Why? Was it essential in any way? You just stated that you disagree with the programs existence, and then you state that it was wrong to shut it down... And you fail to realize that by the point it was shut down, all the letters that would arrive by Christmas had probably already been sent. That means that the have an entire year to solve the problem, which doesn't necessarily mean finding the culprit. I doubt if the police will have anything to do with it.

Nevermind the fact that calling a Canada Post employee a "government employee" is applying the term rather loosely. This article is a non-starter.

I began reading Scragged because of your refreshing approach to the climate change issue, which actually mirrors my thoughts rather well, but I am beginning to get quite turned off by the extremely excessive cynicism in many of your articles...
January 15, 2008 8:18 AM
I thought the first bullet was very profound: "Government loves to play Santa Claus to little kids so that when they grow up, they'll believe that government can deliver benefits without costing them anything".

I'm sure no one in Canada's government is consciously trying to push an agenda to the children, but that's interesting to think about.
January 15, 2008 9:23 AM
As far as I can tell from Google, Canada Post is owned by the Canadian government and is a government-operated entity, so Will's categorization of them as government employees is perfectly legitimate.

The issue of starting up programs and shutting them down, is one of the government over-promising (things it shouldn't really be doing in the first place), and then under-delivering (thus undermining confidence in government while wasting tax dollars.)

You do raise an interesting point about cynicism though. Scragged's motto appears to be the famous quote from actress Lily Tomlin, "No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up." Am I correct in guessing that Jason is Canadian? They don't seem to be as cynical as Americans generally - maybe they expect less of their government already, or perhaps it delivers more. Possibly Scragged should also keep an eye out for good news.

January 15, 2008 9:17 PM
Just a little clarification on the Canada Post thing... Canada Post is a crown corporation, which means that in theory it is owned by Queen Elizabeth. Of course, in practice you are right that it is owned by the Canadian gov't, but it is not directly run by the gov't, and employees wages do not come from the proceeds of taxes. So to say (about this situation) that the government is paying people to tell kids lies is, yes, a lie. Doubly so, because (in my understanding) the Canada Post employees have volunteered their free time to write the letters.

Yeah, I'm a Canadian, but it's been almost two years since I've been home. The internet helps me to maintain my english :)
January 25, 2008 3:36 PM
According to the dictionary, a lie is "a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth."

The status of employees of Canada Post is, at best, murky; it's hardly fair to call characterizing them as government employees, as a lie.

And concerning whether they are paid or not when they are writing the letters, again, this is murky. You say "it is your understanding" that they are volunteers. Perhaps that's true, in which case the original article cited is mistaken; again, hardly a lie.

To be believed, one must be careful what charges one bandies about.
January 25, 2008 5:46 PM
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