12 Apr 2011

Suicidal Government

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Paul Samuelson describes the dynamic of self-interest which has driven the federal government to the brink of bankruptcy and which inherently repels reform.

We in America have created suicidal government; the threatened federal shutdown and stubborn budget deficits are but symptoms. By suicidal, I mean that government has promised more than it can realistically deliver and, as a result, repeatedly disappoints by providing less than people expect or jeopardizing what they already have. But government can’t easily correct its excesses, because Americans depend on it for so much that any effort to change the status arouses a firestorm of opposition that virtually ensures defeat. Government’s very expansion has brought it into disrepute, paralyzed politics and impeded it from acting in the national interest. …

[D]espite superficial support for “deficit reduction” or “tax reform,” few Americans would surrender their own benefits, subsidies and tax breaks — a precondition for success. As a practical matter, most federal programs and tax breaks fall into one of two categories, each resistant to change.

The first includes big items (Social Security, the mortgage interest deduction) whose benefits are so large that any hint of cuts prompts massive opposition — or its specter. Practical politicians retreat. The second encompasses smaller programs (Amtrak, ethanol subsidies) that, though having a tiny budget effect, inspire fanatical devotion from their supporters. Just recently, for example, the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns defended culture subsidies (“an infinitesimally small fraction of the deficit”) in The Post. Politicians retreat; meager budget gains aren’t worth the disproportionate public vilification.

Well, if you can’t change big programs or small programs, what can you do? Not much. …

Government is suicidal because it breeds expectations that cannot be met. All the partisan skirmishing over who gets credit for averting a shutdown misses the larger issue: whether we can restore government as an instrument of progress or whether it remains — as it is now — a threat.

Read the whole thing.

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Rome was suicidal and died.

The USSR and Red China were suicidal, but decided to make the rather drastic changes required to avoid death.

It is unclear whether the US has the guts to make these changes or whether they will adopt the slow death watch of Europe.

On the other hand, this country was founded on the proposition that the role of government is to protect the liberty if its citizens, not to see to their needs and wants. That premise — at least on a propositional level — still seems to be endorsed by the majority of us. Whether we will succumb to the snake oil that you can simultaneously have liberty and dependency is an open question. I think we will know that answer in the next three years.

Never Yet Melted » Suicidal Government | SOS AJUDA LIGUE 141 – 24Hs

[…] mean that government has promised more than it can realistically deliver and, as a result, … suicidal – Google Blog Search Share Suicidio na Internet – Suicidios no Brasil e no Mundo government, Melted, Never, […]


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