The Case for, and Against, "Big Government"

Matt@WMD has an article up (in response to a request from Chris@2Babes) on the role of the federal government, with this as its opener:
"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests." - Patrick Henry
This might make more sense (to the extent that it makes any sense at all) after reading those articles.

My response:

The early income tax was targeted at the very top of the income pyramid, which was comprised in no small part by people who had made their fortunes in war profiteering. More and more war led to more and more taxation. Even today, the bulk of the federal budget goes into military spending, and we still have war profiteering.

Now, you can argue that we need that military spending, and I can argue that the need has been vastly inflated -- and aggravated -- over the decades by people who stand to profit from it, but that's all beside the point. A consequence of all this defense spending has been the creation of many large piles of money, and as we all know, large piles of money don't like to just sit around.

So those war profits get invested, and those profiteers start buying up other companies, and the next thing you know, our tax money is helping a relative handful of industrialists to dominate the national economy. And those new acquisitions take on the characteristics of their new owners, and start lobbying the government to intervene in the economy on their behalf. That's how we wind up with a "conservative" federal government that gets more involved in education (No Child Left Behind happened to impose curriculum requirements which matched a program offered by a prominent campaign donor) while it ignores the borders (since illegal immigration drives down wages).

See where this is going? War redistributes wealth. Wealth sustains power. It's a vicious circle, and it spirals toward Third-World conditions.

The Great Depression is a perfect example of this; once the war spending dried up, it became incredibly difficult for people to sustain themselves, because they had no hope of competing with the conglomerates that had grown out of the war machine. FDR saw a political-economic crisis, and took emergency measures to counteract it, and so we got the safety net.

Thereafter it became impossible to dismantle the war machine, as in the wake of WWII the United States took up the reins of empire from a devastated Europe, and found ourselves constantly sending troops to every corner of the world in defense of our investments. Again, you can disagree with my interpretation, but the fact that we've been involved in war after police action after humanitarian intervention after peacekeeping mission over the last sixty years is indisputable. And no matter what your opinion of the motivations underlying these operations, the fact is that they distort the market, and some degree of sugar is necessary to ease the pain that causes.

Now, with that said: out of that has grown a "you-scratch-my-back" arrangement, where the "entrepreneur" lines up to pocket tax dollars on the guns side and the butter, and always supports his favorite crooked politician (Dem or Reep) over the honest challenger, as a way to protect his revenue stream. Eventually, inevitably, this practice becomes institutionalized, as seems to be the case with the DeLay-Abramoff money network (though that's hardly the only example).

We have to be vigilant against waste on both sides, of course, but if you're of the opinion that government intervention hurts the free market -- which I am -- you need to go to the root source, and the largest cause, of government economic intervention.

Now, when you boil this idea down and have it regurgitated by somebody who doesn't really understand it, what do you get?

You get No Blood for Halliburton! You get reflexive skepticism of those who would take us to war, and those who blame the nation's problems on social spending. Just because not all moonbats have thought this position out, doesn't mean there's no position there.

Unless and until we can dismantle the war machine, part of the role of the federal government is to work to correct the market distortion it creates. Now, we can debate the best way to go about this, but first it must be acknowledged, which is something many refuse to do.


Anonymous said...

Big brother is watching...

catastrophile said...

Big Brother bites butt.

Mara said...

::smirk:: my big brother takes me out for lunch and buys me birthday presents.... watch/bite that one LOL

catastrophile said...

I don't have a big brother. I am a big brother, but I'm a mean one. ;)