Driving into work this morning, I heard Steve Miller's "Take the Money and Run" and remembered the summer I worked for the Ocean City Police Department in Maryland. The lines in the song that sparked this memory are, "Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas ... He makes his livin' off of the people's taxes".
As a summertime police officer, I made two arrests. At the end of the summer my sergeant evaluated my tenure saying, "Let's make more arrests next summer." In my time with OCPD I didn't see many arrestable offenses – usually it was playful rowdiness controllable with a forceful, "C'mon, be smart." But my sergeant wanted more arrests. Why?
Government doesn't have a bottom line. There is no profit motive to spur growth and innovation in a particular area, and there are no losses to constrain growth and waste; there is only "more" or "less". Legislators legislate to show constituents that they're doing something. Bureaucrats protect budgets and sometimes (gasp!) create work to show they're busy.
Lest you think it's just government, commercial entities try to make themselves valuable and important, too. Think of all the ads for cars, weight-loss products, and commodities. Instead of legislators, there are sales people. The opposite of conservation is consumption, and commercial entities want you to consume more and more.
I'm not sure there's a real point to this post other than to prompt each of us to ask, "Why do I need this?" Collectively we must ask governments the same question. But the ones we have to ask are in sales, er, I mean politics.