Saturday, June 16, 2007

Utopian View of Big Government

Now, I've only got a few minutes before the water boils for Mac n' Cheese but I wanted to throw a couple of pieces of info at you all.

1. The Washington Post actually posted a not-so-bad article on Ron Paul here. The not so good news is that it still paints him as a "long shot" candidate. If you haven't figured it out yet, "scientific" polls this far away from the primaries are completely useless. But if you think Ron Paul needs more media attention, the best way to do that is to donate to his campaign as it'll be hard to ignore him when the new quarterly numbers come out at the end of this month. Anyway, what does this have to do with Big Government?

It seems like any time there is some public exposure to his campaign, there are those that object to his "Free Market or Bust" economic philosophy (there is also a lot of sentiment out there, cultivated by the media that he's a nut... which couldn't be further from the truth). So the argument goes - if he became president, corporations would be able to run over the American consumer as there would be no government to protect us. I never really understood that point of view so I did some research to try to figure out where the idea that the government did a better job of protecting people than... you know... people... in the free market, came from. And I ran across this interesting podcast. One of the things they identify in the podcast is that people have an inherent distrust of corporations, insurance companies, etc... but at least some people don't have this same natural distrust of government. When something goes wrong - say, a plane crash - society tends to blame the free market, capitalism and corporate greed and demand that their government step in to protect them from those evil corporations. In my mind, nothing could be scarier than handing over more responsibility to the government, so why do people insist on it?

Obviously, the reason why they distrust corporations is because they see them as only looking out for themselves (which is certainly true), but what they don't see is that government is also only looking out for itself. Instead of governments greed being clearly being quantified in dollars and cents, it's measured in political power. See, money is power, political power is... uh... power. And we all know power corrupts. The money is just a means to an end. So the question is, do you trust the market (and therefore the consumers in the market) to look out for their own self interest, or do you put your trust in a government body that is driven by political self interest. From my close, personal, daily experience with the federal government over the last 10 years... I choose people in a free market.

You could argue that you could try to have both - which is what we have now in a way. The problem with government's involvement in anything is that they tend to consolidate power into just one place - and without competition or market forces in play to make sure that power is used correctly in the consumer's best interest. Where there is power, there will be corruption of that power. Let's say we need the government to regulate fuel consumption because the market isn't doing a good enough job (this is a common complaint, though the we don't actually have a free market, purely capitalistic society - what we have today is corporatism - government involvement in business certainly does lead to problems). Because the government now holds the keys to the cupboard, businesses that want to have inefficient cars will lobby their congress people to get them special breaks, tax incentives, etc. to get away with being inefficient. If the government didn't regulate fuel consumption, why would businesses bother lobbying congress? There's no power there. The free market can regulate fuel consumption quite well - witness the sharp decline in SUV sales in response to climbing gas prices that sent auto makers back the drawing boards. When gas prices go up, the market reacts. When the government gets involved, the market collapses :)

Okay, so the water is thoroughly boiled now

2. In my fanatical pursuit of Ron Paul news and interviews, I've really only found one mainstream media outlet that gives Dr. Paul a fair shake - and it's one that I really didn't have much respect for previously so it pains me to say this: Tucker Carlson on MSNBC has had Dr. Paul on pretty regularly lately and, while he responsibly grills the congressman, he always walks away impressed. Here's the latest entry. So what does this have to do with Big Government?

In the interview, Tucker tries to back Dr. Paul into a corner regarding how a smaller federal government would mean taking away services that people have come to expect their government to provide. In particular, hurricane/disaster relief (for example Hurricane Katrina) would require much more of local/state governments and personal contributions/charity. This sounds to some as if Dr. Paul is cruel or callous. Far from it. His response is classic - it's just as cruel (I'd argue more cruel) to say that the people who have just suffered from a natural disaster are now in the incapable hands of the federal government. FEMA is the disaster... and people want BIGGER government?

I love it when a politician is so consistent in their moral and philosophical views that instead of caving in the face of an opposing view or a "harsh" reality, they present the issue so that it's seen through their moral compass and present it in a way that makes it impossible to argue any further. Wait... has any other candidate done that?? :)
-Andrew Douglas

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