Friday, August 08, 2003

You Gotta Serve Somebody

"It may be the Devil/ Or it may be the Lord/ But you're gonna have to serve somebody" -- Bob Dylan

Let me conclude, before my vacation, and before switching, I hope, well not the topic, but the way I handle the topic, by saying something pretty basic.

No one is in favor of small government. Everyone is in favor of having as much power in their corner as possible. People who complain that the government has too much power are generally those who stand to benefit most if the government's power is reduced.

People say that the government should not do it, that people can do it themselves, and better.

As a Democrat, I would prefer to put it like this (although I agree that this may not be the official Democratic position):

If the government does not do it, individuals (Republicans) will be left alone --- and they will starve to death. What will keep individuals from starving will not be their own efforts, because they lack the resources to do it themselves. Communal efforts of their fellow citizens won't do it, because their fellow citizens are hungry as well. What keeps everyone from starving is the largesse of some other large actor, either the church or the landlord (the corporation in modern parlance). Given these four bad choices --- church, state, corporation, starving to death --- I agree that Democrats do tend to cast their lot with the state. Excessive state will kill you. History is full of examples. However, excessive church also kills, excessive greed by landlords and corporations also kills, and starvation ...

So when people talk about limiting the government to its smallest possible level, I get the sense that they are not trying to make me more free, but are trying to switch the power to the church, the moneyed interests, or they're simply trying to starve me to death.

All-in-all, here in the United States, allowing government to be the dominant actor gives us a better chance for freedom than the church, the corporation or starvation does. Of course, the government has to be pared back from time to time, but that does not mean that a power vacuum should be created that is filled by one of the other three horsemen. The ministers and the landlords and the CEOs and their major stockholders have less freedom than they would otherwise, but I can't be so worried about them. Set up any game you want to play, and they still come out ahead.

This New Deal/ Great Society government has been so successful that it has raised a generation so well-fed and so free that it cannot imagine why the government had to become so large in the first place. One of the biggest losers of the New Deal sits in the Oval Office. Without the New Deal, his family would have so much more money, and we would have so much less opportunity.