It’s that time again! I’ll ask a question, and then we’ll take turns answering it. If you don’t participate, I’ll send a really creepy clown to your house to peer into all the windows and sing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of his lungs in your front yard at 2am.
I usually don’t post political stuff on my blog. For one thing, I don’t consider myself a particularly persuasive writer. Better minds than mine have written reams of polished political punditry, and even so, it’s rare to hear of anyone changing his mind about his political ideology based on a blog post. For another thing, I’m non-confrontational at heart. I save my controversial and divisive assertions for the things I think really matter, the high stakes stuff. That leaves a whole lot of middle ground upon which good-hearted people can honestly disagree.
Having said all that, I think the current back-and-forth of our country’s political discourse is interesting. There is a clear difference between the two schools of thought currently vying for control of America’s direction, between the push for small, hands-off government and the desire for strong government intervention to solve the problems facing the nation. Today’s question takes those conflicting viewpoints to their most extreme implementations.
Question: If you had to choose between the two extremes, would you rather have a super small government whose only functions are maintaining the armed forces and keeping people from hurting each other (no government aid programs at all), or a super large government that provides social services to everyone in need and regulates nearly all aspects of private life?
Answer: Obviously, most reasonable people fall somewhere in the vast middle ground between these two choices, but I have to say that I’d prefer the evils of the too small government to those of the too big one. I’d like to think that, in the absence of government programs, neighbors would watch out for each other more, and people with big hearts would step forward in larger numbers to reach out to those in deepest need. I know it wouldn’t work perfectly, but even with the billions spent on government programs now, we haven’t managed to eradicate poverty. Some would argue that we’ve created a larger class of dependents due to the complications of administering such sweeping social service offerings. Many of those who are helped by such programs are truly in need, but some are gaming the system. Sorting them out is all but impossible in the blizzard of paperwork and personnel that sucks a lot of that money into the black hole of bureaucracy.
Also, I think it’s very easy for the government to overreach in the area of regulation, and very difficult to pull that overreaching hand back again. Take the health care reform bill, for example. In one mighty sweep, the government has moved to exercise control over the country’s medical practices and the insurance industry. Those who crafted the law are not experts in either field, and nearly every day we hear of some unintended consequence of that naiveté as the fallout impacts coverage, costs, and availability of a service that worked just fine for 85% of America’s citizens. A much smaller, more bipartisan bill could have addressed the coverage of the uninsured; the health care overhaul we got is akin to using a sledgehammer to drive a three-penny nail.
Like I said, I think the real answers are somewhere in the middle, but I definitely lean toward smaller government. How about you?