The arrow is plugging the wound.

In other places I’ve made it pretty clear that I lean sharply libertarian and that the role of government should be sharply limited. “To preserve these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  That’s it.  Going beyond what’s necessary to “secure these rights” is to go beyond “just powers.”

As I point out in earlier blog posts, a certain level of government actually helps to secure the basic rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Obviously, we are far, far beyond that point.  To get there we need to cut government back, way back.

Here’s where I part company with many Libertarians.  They want to do it in one fell swoop.  Every part of government that is not part of the minimum necessary “to secure these rights” (which some consider to be “all of it”) must go.  Now.

That, however, may not be a good idea.  Oh, the end goal of getting rid of most of what government does may be a laudable one but the question is how.

Consider this analogy.  A man has been shot with a number of arrows and is lying there like a meat pincushion.  The wounds, if properly treated, are such that he can survive and heal.  If left as his he’ll bleed to death.

Some folk have the instinct to jerk out all the arrows since they’re what caused his wounding.

Very foolish that.  Those arrows are also plugging the holes so he doesn’t quickly bleed out.

This is where we are with government.  It’s bleeding free society to death, slow or fast depending on your perspective but it’s also “plugging the holes”.

Consider what President Dwight Eisenhower said about Social Security and other programs: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Eisenhower was not endorsing Social Security and those other programs.  No, he was pointing out the reality that so many people had grown dependent on them that people would rise in such outrage that the “offending” party would be voted out of every office they hold, from President all the way down to dog catcher, and never be heard from again.

And the plain fact is that many more people are dependent on many more government programs than ever before.  Cut the program and people will suffer, in the short term at least.  Maybe, probably, they would if given time adjust to the new situation and the economic growth that comes from the increased freedom and less tying up of the economy caused by the government passing money back and forth from hand to hand with no new products and services to show for it would improve their lot.  But there’s the problem “given time”.  Most people will only see their immediate hardship.  As the line says from the movie Annie (the 1982 version; I haven’t seen the 2014 version and don’t intend to) “People don’t eat in the long run.”

Thus, while reducing the size of government is a good thing–indeed, it’s something that must happen if we’re to remain anything resembling a free and prosperous country–great care must be taken in how its done.  We must be prepared to deal with the “bleeding” that will come from removing each “arrow” lest instead of a healthy, prosperous nation we end up with a exanguinated corpse.

Recognizing this, of course, makes me a horrible “statist” who doesn’t care about freedom.  Or so I’ve been told.

5 thoughts on “The arrow is plugging the wound.”

  1. Indeed. Especially with social security first step should be removing the traps, situations where staying in the dole is much more profitable than trying to get off it. At least in my country you kind of need to get a full time paying job in order to do it, if you try to start by working a part time job you will probably end where you get less money altogether than if you had just stayed on the dole, and very easily significantly less. Also, you will lose the government support right at the moment you get the job, not when you get your first pay, which will tend to mean trying to survive for a month or month and a half, sometimes, with no money coming in from anywhere. I have known more than a few people who would have wanted to work but stayed on the full support due to that.

    Also, simplify the damn thing. Just removing most of the bureaucracy should mean a lot of money gets saved, while the people getting it are still receiving what they need to survive.

    There are the cheaters and the welfare queens, but a lot more people don’t really use the system rather than are trapped by it. And one of the big problems with that trap is that once you have been forced to navigate it for a while, or a few times – you are unable to find a job which would pay better and face the fact that you might end up on the street if you took some part time job – the idea of removing the trap gets mighty scary because you no longer believe, deep down, that you’d survive outside of it. Like the animals which have been living in cages all or most of their lives and refuse to leave them even when the door is left open (and a lot of them actually would perish if they left too because they never learned or have forgotten how to survive out there, without a caretaker).

    Rehabilitating takes time.


  2. Recognizing this, of course, makes me a horrible “statist” who doesn’t care about freedom. Or so I’ve been told.

    It’s almost like folks are using the term to mean “doesn’t agree with what I think should happen,” rather than as a description.


    1. Actually, I largely agree with what they want to have happen, at least in the “end game”. The problem is they’re all “I want it now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Or I’ll hold my breath until I turn blue!”

      So “statist” becomes “you big old meanie!” when I say “you can’t have it now. You have to have patience.”


      1. Exactly– means, rather than ends, but not agreeing with them on prudential matters means you’re as much an enemy as full-on involintary communists.


        I’m a “statist” because I disagree on the best way to protect everyone’s basic rights; I think my favorite is when it’s because I don’t agree with them about what sort of agreements people should not be allowed to enter.


        1. They use “statist” like the left today uses “fascist” or “nazi” – basically, it’s their favorite synonym for “poopyhead”.


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