Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bloat 1/2

Government is like a penis. Feminist and military industrial complex arguments aside it really is. It’s not about how big or small it is, it is about whether it is doing its job.

And people think that by trying to make it a different size it’s going to somehow accomplish its mission better. Government does better with creativity and a focus on the right rhythm. Right now our government has been effectively deadlocked with the need for 60 votes in the senate, two split chambers of congress (one left and one right), and a bunch of critics on the outside yelling at it to perform.

It’s a bit of a set-up for failure.

Big government and small government are inane arguments. The reason people want the government to change size is to target underlying desires. The people want a responsive government; one that is there in times of crisis but one that is also efficient and minimal in maintaining the common good. It is a mythology to think that ‘small’ government has meaning as a term. Instead people generally want one thing or the other--a large military budget or a strong entitlement system for the disadvantaged. When the argument of small government is thrown around, it is a rare occasion that a politician truly means shrinking the government. In fact, in the modern context it has come to mean something more akin to “I’m going to get rid of the programs I don’t like, but won’t name them explicitly because some of my voters like them.”

Small government is a lie to a constituency. It is a fall-back “tough on spending” take on a complex issue and it doesn’t have any inherent meaning.

Similarly the assertion that government is ‘ballooning’ into a behemoth that is out of control also holds little water. The US government has expanded its authority, but this is a trend that has happened since Washington. Of course government gets larger as the world gets more complex. But is it out of control? Are there people not doing their jobs? Are there parts of the government that could be eliminated because they are wasteful?

Probably. But it’s not as easy as a slash and burn policy. Looking at how government agencies are coming up short and unable to fulfill their mandates it becomes hard to say that any single program is paying for golden toilet seats. It is far more realistic to say that some government agencies are inadequately responding to the needs of the people and therefore feel wasteful because their function is unclear. But that’s a nuanced mouthful that confuses the masses. And what a tragedy if people had to become informed about their decisions.