Friday, October 16, 2009

The Size of Government

Over on Sipsey Street ( ) they're talking about secession and the perils of "Leviathan government".  Well, I mostly sympathize with them, being a closet anarchist myself, but all they do is complain about Leviathan;  they might as well complain about the weather.

It's true that the size of government is in direct proportion to how much of our liberty it consumes.  Is there anything we can really do about it?

The answer is that 'there should be'.  In fact, controlling the size of government ought to be a relatively straight-forward proposition.  The Constitution, after all, is rigged in favor of smaller government.  The only reason we've got a three trillion dollar federal budget is that we just don't understand how the system works.  Either that, or we're too stupid (as a nation) to figure it out.

OK, so how did we get such a monstrous-sized government?  Answer: bipartisanship.  It's the drive to be seen as 'a team player', to 'go along to get along', and to not be seen as 'blocking reforms' that impel legislators to vote for ever-bigger government programs...  which, not coincidentally, implies ever-bigger government.

I pointed out elsewhere that the federal laws which we are all expected to comply with are printed in books which occupy nearly forty (40) feet of shelf space.  Each new government program -- each new page in the CFR -- involves specifying things we-the-people must do and/or things we-the-people may not do, along with advantages granted to some and disadvantages dispensed to others, almost none of which are within Congress' article 1 section 8 grant of authority.  Oops...

But the question on the floor is 'how do we reverse this?'.  It's actually simpler than it might seem, although killing bipartisanship may be the hardest part.

Yes, bipartisanship has to go.  It must be replaced with rabid partisanship:  screw your program; I want mine!  Cast in that form, the problem looks insoluble.  What Congress(wo)man is going to be the proverbial 'dog in the manger'?  You still have to 'bring home the bacon', right?  The problem won't be solved in any meaningful sense until the day there is no bacon to be brought home.  Fortunately (or, for some, 'unfortunately'), we're almost there.  We are on the precipice of a financial catastrophe which is going to make 1929 look like an unsuccessful PTA bake-sale.  The pig is dead.

Aside:  government has only three ways to get the money with which to pay for the programs it enacts:

  1. tax it
  2. borrow it
  3. print it

In the Dead Pig Scenario, option-1 is out because people are out-of-work, broke, destitute.  They're going on welfare, not paying their taxes.  Option-2 is also out because by this point, potential borrowers are beginning to suspect they might not get repaid, and they are (understandably) reluctant to throw good money after bad.  Option-3 is the method Germany chose when its WW-I war reparations bankrupted their economy.  We all know how that worked out -- people with wheelbarrows-full of Deutschmarks trying to buy bread.  The German people grumbled and groused but there wasn't much they could do about it.

It's too dangerous to do that in early-21st-century America;  we have guns, and a revolution here would not be pretty.  History would look back at The Reign Of Terror and decide that, compared to the upheaval in the United States, it wasn't all that bad...

So, what's a Congress to do when all of its favorite options are foreclosed?  The size of government must shrink.  The government will be forced to subsist on what the (collapsed) economy can still manage to produce.  Less, actually;  you have to maintain the productive workforce -- the economy's 'seed corn' -- as a first priority;  government can have what's left over, and it won't be much.

Yes, this suggests a catastrophic reduction in the size of government.  Social Security checks would stop...  dead.  Welfare would stop...  dead.  Pell grants would stop...  dead.  Highway Trust Fund payments would stop...  dead.

Wouldn't it be a better idea to alter course before this happens?  Wouldn't it be a better idea to stop spending money we don't have -- money we have to tax, borrow, or print -- before it becomes necessary to push that big red 'POWER OFF' button?  Wouldn't it be a better idea to scale back the size of government before it all comes crashing down?

You can do it.

In fact, only you can do it.  Tell Congress:  "Stop spending.  Stop spending regardless how noble the cause.  Stop thinking about new programs you're beginning to think about.  Stop thinking about how you can be the White Knight riding to the rescue of the downtrodden.  Start thinking about programs you can eliminate...  then eliminate them.  Start thinking about programs you can't eliminate...  and eliminate them anyway.  Stop worrying about getting a 'bad rep' as a lone wolf who isn't a team-player.  Worry about me, your constituent."

If you decide this is all beyond your power to influence up-or-down, buy ammunition.

You're going to need it.


  1. buy beans and bullets and find some friends.

  2. What is with all these foreign wars (not defending our borders) and 700-plus military bases? This should have raised concerns years ago. We lost a lot of freedom but it wasn't this past election. I can't have an open fire. I can't work on my house w/o permits and inspectors. I can't ingest any substance, natural or manufactured that I may desire such as laetrile to ward off cancer. I can have guns but I can't point them or shoot them. I can't up and go to Cuba to have fun or get my teeth fixed. I can't even purchase their cigars, either. I can't run a business w/o a lot of gov't overhead and forced expenditures on private insurance even if I have the means to self-insure. I can't perform basic legal actions w/o some overpriced buffoon filing forms that I could handle myself. I can't make hooch to sell or even serve it to whomever I want. I can't flirt with a consenting adult and be generous with my wealth. I cannot recommend an herb or prepare a concoction for myself, let alone anyone else, to cure an ill. I cannot purchase utilities for land that I own without a house or trailer approved for occupancy.
    This pursuit of happiness is pretty much an empty promise. Oddly, though, with the right "gonnections" (The Great Gatsby), I can pollute, poison, sicken, steal, and harm others with impunity.