"Sometimes you should just give up. Quit!" That sage advice came from the incomparable comedian Dave Chappelle, one of pop culture's most famous quitters, during a standup performance in Chattanooga last week. Chappelle abruptly abandoned his Comedy Central sketch show in 2005, leaving $50 million on the table.
Despite the clichés about not giving up and quitters never winning, Chappelle sure seemed content entertaining the packed house at the Tivoli Theatre -- probably more so than he would have been if he had continued doing something he didn't want to do year after year.
Chappelle is proof positive that sometimes not doing something anymore is the best decision.
Need more evidence? Just look at what happened in Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 -- 150 years ago today.
Confederate attacks on both Union flanks failed miserably and there was no realistic hope of victory for the South. If they were wise, the boys in gray would have given up on Gettysburg and marched off to fight another day. But instead of packing up and calling it a loss, the Confederate Army under Robert E. Lee devised a preposterous idea for a head-on assault into the center of the Union Army.
The ill-fated strike, known to us all as Pickett's Charge, effectively exterminated any remaining hope the South had of winning the Civil War. Pickett's Charge provides further proof that it's wiser to quit than to continue when continuing means almost certain failure.
Unfortunately, our federal government acts more like Robert E. Lee than Dave Chappelle. It often refuses to quit even when giving up would be the best move.
The government is maggoty with policies and agencies that fail to provide the promised benefits, while costing taxpayers huge sums of hard-earned dollars. Still, no matter what, it seems Washington lawmakers never do the wise thing and give up on failing programs.
Take, for example, minimum wage laws. Congress first passed a national minimum wage in 1938 and more than 10 percent of America's lowest-paid, lowest-skilled workers lost their jobs almost immediately. The minimum wage has been harming the very Americans it was ostensibly created to benefit ever since.
Not only do economists agree that a minimum wage reduces the number of available jobs, especially among young, low-skilled and minority workers, it also leaves low-income workers who are lucky enough to keep their jobs despite the minimum wage worse off. That's because price increases that result from the additional cost of producing goods and offering services mean that, even if some people have more money to spend, their buying power is reduced as the price of everything rises.
Still, Congress is unwilling to "pull a Chappelle" and walk away from a minimum wage.
Another failed policy that continues even though the federal government should have stopped it years ago is the war on drugs.
Washington's drug war has failed tremendously at reducing drug use and the amount of drugs in America -- and undeniably succeeded at wasting more than $1 trillion, imprisoning more than a million harmless Americans and creating a state of murderous chaos throughout much of Mexico and Central America. On top of triggering deaths, tearing apart families and burning through tax dollars with nothing to show for it, the drug war is also not constitutionally justified.
Despite America's unrealistic, nanny-state approach of outlawing drugs, the U.S. leads the world in illegal drug use. Drug prohibition doesn't prevent drug use, it just causes people to break the law.
Rather than forging ahead with its flawed tactics, the government should "just say no" to the useless drug war.
One final program that government should give up on because it simply does not work is Head Start. The taxpayer-funded government pre-kindergarten scheme attempts to prepare low-income children for success in school, and in life. In reality, all Head Start provides is a very expensive babysitting bureaucracy.
After years of independent studies finding that Head Start fails to provide lasting benefit to the children it serves, the government finally issued its own report admitting the program is useless.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that, despite devouring $180 billion, Head Start has little or no lasting educational, emotional or socioeconomic benefits for children. According to the study, out of the 142 outcomes measured in four categories -- cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices -- Head Start produced no measurable patterns of beneficial outcomes for its students by the end of third grade.
Head Start has conclusively been proven a failure. Children who attend the program don't perform better in school, aren't more likely to graduate high school and don't fare better in life than those from the same socio-economic background who don't. Still, since it's "for the kids," federal lawmakers seem unwilling to put a stop to Head Start.
Apparently our federal lawmakers took it very seriously when their parents told them to "never give up." It's too bad that members of Congress don't realize that there's no shame in giving up when the things they are quitting are unsuccessful and wasteful.
As Pickett's Charge teaches, there's a time to stop, reflect and figure out a better way to tackle problems. Or, to put it another way, sometimes the government should be more like Dave Chappelle and just quit.