Friday, September 09, 2005

Government in a Nutshell

Since its inception in early July, this blog has been about "Libertarianism, sports, pop culture and random bits of virtual insanity," but the truth is that the content has evolved somewhat differently. If one theme has consistently dominated the discourse here, it's the desire to debunk bad ideas, and replace them with a new way of thinking about issues. I know that sounds really pompous and presumptuous but our most important weapon - critical thinking - in the battle against bad ideas is in short supply these days. Whatever small role I can play, even if it's just blogging in the wilderness, is better than doing nothing.

The general assumption that government is a necessary evil, that it's inefficient but on balance more positive than negative, is the one idea I'm working hardest to dispel. Most of you disagree with me and I'm not trying to change any minds -- but I am trying to shake faith in the institution, one depressing story at a time.

Does this story make anyone feel better about the power wielded by local police officers? How about their judgment in using it?

And this is government in a nutshell -- it doesn't matter how old you are or the reasons why: do what we say or we'll harm you. Submit or be destroyed. That's government.

3 comments:

Larry said...

As a government employee, my opinion may be overwhelmingly influenced by my paycheck, but I have to say that I wholeheartedly disagree. Maybe in the U.S., under extreme circumstances, like post 9/11, or after a natural disaster of biblical proportions, this holds true. But overall, I'd say government is necessary, and, on the whole, does more good for the citizendry than bad. Here's one piece of evidence why I say that: Human Resources is the largest chunk of U.S. Federal spending, accounting for 34% of all expenses. This is over $722 billion spent on Education, Health/Human Services, HUD, Food/Nutrition programs, Labor Department, and social security. The same goes for the states; the largest percentage of state budgets is spent on human resources. This is money spent on public health to keep your air, water and soil clean (despite the best efforts of Commander Cukoo-bananapants McChimpy), healthcare to keep citizens healthy (which is way more cost efficient than spending money on sick people), housing for the poor, food for mothers and babies (WIC), and a pension for old people (social security). Granted, I will concede that these programs are full of inefficiency and mismanagement, but I'd rather have badly managed programs that provide food for women and infants than no program at all. And, I will also grant you that we spend WAY too much on other things, like uber-pork projects such as over $250 million on a bridge in Alaska that leads to an island that has all of 50 people on it and $2000 toilet seats for the military. But, being an employee of the highest regarded public health agency in the world, the CDC, I can say that I have seen and experienced first hand that good that government can do. Now that I've changed your mind (hee hee), how about a blog on who you think should be NL MVP this year, and why Andruw Jones should or should not get it over Pujols...

Mark said...

What's the alternative? If we don't have the government we have now then what?
I myself am ALL IN FAVOR of reverting back to the monarchy. Think about it - for once the English have it right...you've got figurehead who despite the trials and tribulations of her own family still commands an enormous amout of respect from every corner of British society. You've got a government who is more answerable to the people than ours. The Prime Minister stands in the well of the Commons and responds directly to fellow lawmakers on a daily basis and is forced to be more accountable. If we had that form of government, I think I could feel more confident.
BUT - since we don't - I just can't see what the alternatives are. I can see altering or "adjusting" what we've got to make politicians and the like more accountable - I can also see taking stupid policemen out and using stun-guns on them...but short of a full-scale American Revolution Part Deux, there isn't much else we can do. And even if there WAS another revolution - what do we change to?
J - if you can come up with the alternative - I'm voting for YOU for king, and I will pledge, my leige, my lifelong service and loyalty!

J Ballot said...

Larry--

You make interesting points, in that you've selected the most "benevolent" forms of government to defend, i.e., the welfare ends. I would never criticize things such as clean air/water, healthcare, housing for the poor, etc. Of course we should make the distinction between the activities of say, the CDC vs., I dunno, the CIA, maybe?

Having said that, I would still contend that these endeavors are best left to the private sector. The idea that the private sector can't or won't do these things is unsupported by history. And government does make things worse by being involved, for several reasons: it crowds out private initiatives by diverting resources away from efficient uses. It creates a class of dependents instead of fostering a sense of independence -- we should not be surprised when people depend on public "assistance" when the incentives to do so are so powerful. Government usurps charities and families. These things are still there, of course, but one wonders how much more effective they'd be with money in their hands instead of having aid laundered and administered by the government. Moreover, government welfare programs represent an assault on private property -- the idea that it's moral to take money from us to give to someone else is reprehensible, regardless of the alleged "morality" of the cause. If it's not voluntary, it can't be moral. Why should the government be able to do what is deemed a crime when committed by others?

Two things we can agree on: 1) Commander Cuckoo-bananapants McChimpy is perhaps the most fitting name for a sitting president ever, and 2) the NL MVP race is eminently blogworthy, and I will be writing about it shortly. :)

Mark--

If you are comfortable with the idea of my benevolent dictatorship, then by all means, please nominate me! Your lifelong service and loyalty confers many benefits -- I'm pretty sure we'll be playing 18 at Augusta just about every day. Think of it as being the Richelieu to my Louis XIII. Not a bad offer, no??? :)

Seriously though, all of my philosophical beliefs point to only one logical conclusion: I'm an anarcho-capitalist, which basically means I don't want to replace the current system of governance with a different one. Instead, I favor the disappearance of the state and all its permutations of forcible government. The ideas of private roads, private courts, and private defense sound impossible but are actually feasible. I can send you some links if you're interested in reading more about it.

-J