The Arrow is Plugging the Wound: A Blast from the Past

Still under the weather, so here’s another Blast from the Past:

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 1Part 2Part 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. [Ed. Note also what I had to say in Yesterday’s post, The Dismal Science.]

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.  It needs to be done gradually–we didn’t get where we are in an instant and we won’t get back in one either.  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 an exsanguinated corpse.

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

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