Thursday, August 26, 2010

Government expansion, anyone?

I have long favored limited government. In so many areas of our lives things seem to be going the other way. In some localities, for example, renters are required to allow inspectors in to see if there are any violations. The last time these snoopers showed up at my door, I refused to let them in. "We’ll be back,” the vowed. But they haven’t been. So there are some intrusions that one can stand up to--but not many.

Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be any universal rule in these matters. In his most recent piece in Mother Jones, Kevin Drum (a leftist with sanity) puts it this way.

“If you can find liberals who favor charter schools, less regulation of small businesses, and an end to Fannie Mae, that's well and good. But that's 10% or less of my world view. I also favor high marginal tax rates on the rich, national health care, full funding for Social Security, more spending on early childhood education, stiff regulations on the financial industry, robust environmental rules, a strong labor movement, a cap-and-trade regime to reduce carbon emissions, a major assault on income inequality, more and better public transit, and plenty of other lefty ambitions that I won't bother to list. If we could do all that without a bigger state, that would be fine. But we can't. When it's all said and done, if we lived in Drum World I figure combined government expenditures would be 40-45% of GDP and the funding source for all that would be strongly progressive. 'Statist' is an obviously provocative (and usually puerile) way to frame this, but really, it's not all that far off the mark. It wouldn't be tyranny, any more than Sweden is a tyranny, but it would certainly be a world in which the American state was quite a bit bigger than it is now.”

I wouldn’t make as many concessions to big government as Drum does. Teachers' Unions are the biggest single obstacle to educational reform; they need to be curbed, not strengthened. Cap-and-trade has pretty much been abandoned. Unless it is very carefully targeted, pouring more money into public transit is probably a waste. As regards increasing income equality, that is easier said than done. Social Security is in fact fully funded: we just have to keep people's hands off it (including Leftists) who want to divert the money for their pet projects.

We are unlikely to adopt the night-watchman concept of minimalist government. Government is not likely to undergo any significant shrinkage. It would be reasonable, however, to require that those who seek to expand the scope of government in one area agree to a compensatory shrinking in another. Reasonable, though unlikely to be adopted. Hardly anything that is desirable can be effected in Washington nowadays, which probably means that national decline is inevitable.



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