Sunday, November 20, 2011
The argument in favor of small government
Historically, governments have tended to be either weak or tyrannical. In neither case the government cared little about and did little of benefit for the "common" people (that is, us 99%). Roman emperors arranged spectacles to entertain the commoners, such as fights between gladiators or feeding Christians to lions, but did little to make sure that the commoners were well-fed, well-clothed, and well cared for in old age. In modern times it was Otto von Bismarck who recognized that a stable government depended on a satisfied population, and set about creating governmental institutions to provide health care and other benefits for the whole population of Germany. By contrast, a century earlier the Kings of France were making sure that wealthy Frenchmen were happy and satisfied. We know where that policy led.
Small, weak government leads necessarily to a society in which the richest individuals have the greatest power. They can create walled and gated enclaves in which to live. They can hire thugs to keep the less privileged away. They can dictate the conditions and the wages of working people. The hired thugs guarantee that the workers accept the wages and conditions. Who wants to be a member of the 99% in such a society?
Not me, certainly. However, Howard Jarvis looked forward eagerly to the creation of such a society. Today Grover Norquist advocates shrinking government to a size that it can then be drowned in a bathtub. Mr. Norquist would almost certainly deny it, but it seems to me that he advocates anarchy; that is, no government at all.
We, the 99 percent, need a strong government committed to making sure that the one percent don't simply squeeze us from the paltry share we have of the nation's wealth and other amenities. The government is strong; unfortunately, it has been taken over by the one percent. Corporations now have as much legal standing as persons. (I wonder if corporations can be put to death if convicted of murder?) We also need strong non-governmental-organizations (NGO) such as unions and associations dedicated to protecting our rights to help us withstand the power of the one percent.