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Big or small government?

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Big or small government?

Post by Ivan on Sun May 12, 2013 12:26 am

First topic message reminder :

"Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
 
That‘s what Ronald Reagan said in his inaugural address when he became President of the USA in January 1981. Reagan, Augusto Pinochet and Margaret Thatcher were all disciples of the economist Milton Friedman, who believed that governments did not have a responsibility to intervene in the market to soften its sharp edges. Friedman wrote to Pinochet: “The major error, in my opinion, is to believe that it is possible to do good with other people’s money.” Friedman believed in ‘small government’ and encouraged talk of “getting government off our backs” and “getting government out of the way”.
 
The term ‘big government’ conjures up associations with the George Orwell character ‘Big Brother’ and has invariably been seen as a bad thing by supporters of the policies of Reagan and Thatcher. Words like ‘bureaucratic’, ‘inefficient’, ‘intrusive’, and even ‘corrupt’ have often been associated with the term. Some economists claim that big government interferes with the mechanisms of free enterprise, while libertarians believe it seeks to control private or personal freedoms guaranteed by the ‘natural law’ expounded by John Locke and formalised in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Some right-wing politicians argue that big government lacks checks and balances on its exercise of power, leading it to represent special interests to the detriment of its citizens.
 
The big government that Reagan and his conservative followers railed against was not a recent creation at all. Since the very founding of their nation, Americans have used the power and reach of the federal government to foster any number of important national projects. In the 19th century, it helped create a national communication system which enabled the citizenry to have access to ideas and information. It fostered the development of national transportation systems which have made the movement of goods and people possible. Likewise, the federal government has promoted education at all levels as the way Americans can achieve equality of opportunity. Yet the anti-government sentiment that Reagan crystallised created a strange patriotism, in which to love their country, Americans were supposed to hate the governments they elect. At the same time, Republicans are quite happy to have a huge government involvement in warfare, with 80% of research and development at American universities being supported directly or indirectly by the Pentagon.
 
In his book, ‘The Case For Big Government’, published in 2008, Jeff Madrick argues that in the USA, the big governments of past eras fostered greatness and prosperity, while weak, laissez-faire governments marked periods of corruption and exploitation. He says that the USA benefits when the government actively nourishes economic growth, rejects free market orthodoxy and adopts ambitious government-centred programmes. He doesn’t have much time for Republicans seeking to revive 19th century principles.
 
When right-wingers say they believe in small government, I don’t think they’ve thought it through properly. They might not want a welfare state or national health provision because they’re rich enough not to need either, but do they really want small government when there is a terrorist outrage or a catastrophe like Hurricane Sandy? Who do they think would co-ordinate the response, an altruistic private corporation? Is it small government when many on the political right, such as UKIP in Britain, want to stop equal marriage, or would that be the state interfering in people’s private lives? The USA imprisons people at fourteen times the rate of Japan; is that how small government works?
 
I like big government. When the credit crunch occurred in 2008, it was big government that prevented cash machines from being switched off and cheques being torn up. Any revival in the business and finance sector since the global crunch has only been possible because of the enormous subsidies to it provided by the state. The UK National Health Service is, at least until the Tories complete its destruction, big government. The professionals that people admire most - doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers, the police – are mostly employees of big government.
 
We’re told that big government crowds out the private sector and stifle free enterprise and innovation. Not according to Mariana Mazzucato, the Sussex University economist and author of ‘The Entrepreneurial State’. Writing in ‘The Guardian’ in April 2012, she said: “Where would Google be today without the state-funded investments in the internet, and without the US National Science Foundation grant that funded the discovery of its own algorithm? Would the iPad be so successful without the state-funded innovations in communication technologies, GPS and touchscreen display?" Furthermore, free market capitalism couldn’t exist without an active government to provide the extensive legal infrastructure that creates and regulates markets and that enables corporations to do business.
 
Those who advocate small government claim that it gives us more liberty. But isn’t it government institutions, like the courts, which provide the main way in which we protect our rights and liberties?  We’re told that churches and private charities could take the place of government in dealing with many social problems, but could they really raise enough money to address problems such as poverty, hunger and lack of health care?
 
Mehdi Hasan wrote this for ‘The New Statesman’: “Those who pine for a leaner, meaner, smaller state cannot answer the simplest question: how would small government have paid for the bailout of RBS, Lloyds and the rest? The Treasury has coughed up roughly £850 billion to prop up the UK’s financial sector, according to the National Audit Office. Can small government tackle the threat of runaway climate change and the rising costs of adaptation and mitigation? It is forecast that the global warming bill will run into trillions of pounds.”
 
I’d rather have big government, over which there is some measure of democratic control, than small government with power in the hands of unaccountable corporations. At least we can vote out a government. We’re told things like: ''The problem that anyone should have with big government is that sooner or later power will be exercised by people who don't have your best interests at heart.'' Even if that were a fact, rather than an opinion, do we think it wouldn't be the case if the country was run by big business?
 
In his 2004 book ‘Growing Public’, the University of California economist Peter Lindert argues that countries with high levels of government spending don’t perform any worse than countries with low levels of government spending. Contrary to the ideology of many right-wing politicians, he insists that social spending has contributed to, rather than inhibited, economic growth.
 
Those calling for smaller government tend to be those who can afford not to rely on state institutions like the NHS and who dislike pesky government involvement in things like the minimum wage or health and safety. Government policies are the source of few of our serious societal problems. Poverty, pollution and lack of health care have their sources in the private sector, not the public sector. There is no advanced economy without a large state sector, and traditional economic theory tells us exactly why: market failures and unintended outcome must be corrected by social intervention, in the absence of which a high level of wealth cannot be sustained. It may be fashionable to some to want to roll back the state, but where would you rather live, in big-government Sweden or small-government Somalia?
 
Sources used:-
 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-conn/central-government-book_b_1777321.html  
 
http://www.moneycrashers.com/big-vs-small-government-ideal/    
 
http://www.governmentisgood.com/feature.php?fid=14
 
http://www.newstatesman.com/environment/2013/04/where-would-you-rather-live-small-government-somalia-or-big-government-sweden
 
Further reference:-
 
http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8730.html (Madrick)
 
http://oro.open.ac.uk/30159/1/Entrepreneurial_State_-_web.pdf (Mazzucato)
 
http://www.langtoninfo.com/web_content/9780521529174_frontmatter.pdf (Lindert)
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Re: Big or small government?

Post by Ivan on Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:34 am

Video: Naomi Klein and Jeremy Corbyn discuss how to get the world we want

Klein: I want to talk about this extraordinary moment in which the project that really began under Thatcher in this country, and Reagan in the U.S. — the whole so-called consensus that never really was a consensus, the war on the collective, on the idea that we can do good things when we get together — is crumbling. But it’s also kind of a dangerous moment, when you have a vacuum of ideology, because dangerous ideas are also surging. So what is the plan to make sure that it is progressive, hopeful ideas that enter into this vacuum that has opened up?

Corbyn: It’s been a very interesting two years. We’ve had two leadership elections in the Labour Party, which mobilised very large numbers of people. It’s not about me. It’s about a cause, it’s about people. And then we’ve just come out of a general election campaign in which we started in a very difficult political position and ended up gaining three million more votes than 2015, and the highest Labour vote in England for many, many decades.


Watch the video here:-
https://theintercept.com/2017/07/13/video-naomi-klein-and-jeremy-corbyn-discuss-how-to-get-the-world-we-want/

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Re: Big or small government?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:28 pm

If "The Rule of Law" means anything, and if the word "Democracy" accurately describes The Will of the People, then the result of a referendum last June has to be respected.  Which is what Jeremy Corbyn has committed the Labour Party to observe.

Unfortunately "Brexit" now has to be recognised for what it is: a financial suicide-note.

Detaching the UK from the EU is the exact equivalent of a child deliberately making itself sick because it didn't like everything which was on the menu.
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Re: Big or small government?

Post by Ivan on Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:42 pm



https://static.politico.com

The above cartoon has apparently caused a furore for being in bad taste at a time of disaster, namely Hurricane Harvey. And, to be fair, there are probably those who believe in “small government” who still think that a federal or state administration has some role to play in saving people’s lives.

However, I have to confess that whenever I come across advocates of small government on Twitter or elsewhere I feel like reaching for my gun, to paraphrase some German geezer from way back when. Except that I don’t have a gun and don’t subscribe to the Republican notion that gun ownership is a right but healthcare is a privilege. I believe in big government, which makes it so important that we don't let idiots like Trump and May stay in charge of it.

There are right-wingers who believe "big government is so bad until I need it". There are also those who rely upon the government for their livelihoods while decrying big government. And there were Texans in Congress who voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy a few years ago. That cartoon suggests people who believe in small government should forfeit government help in their time of need, or at least they should recognise that their belief in small government is wrongheaded.

Republicans have often targeted the funding of flood response and prevention programmes. One of the Obama directives that Trump rescinded was requiring the federal government to develop ways to fortify infrastructure (roads, levees, dams etc) in flood-prone areas to withstand as much damage as possible from disasters such as the recent flood in Houston. Did Trump mention that when he was there waving that flag?
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Re: Big or small government?

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:28 pm

One day, perhaps thousands of years into the Future: Men will trust themselves to govern their own future. Without delegating it to others who are no better, and often demonstrably worse at it.
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Re: Big or small government?

Post by boatlady on Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:13 pm

One day, perhaps thousands of years into the Future: Men will trust themselves to govern their own future. Without delegating it to others who are no better, and often demonstrably worse at it.

I think, though, that what we want from government is to administer essential services so we can get on with the more important stuff - if no-one administers health care, education, protection of vulnerable citizens and access to housing, we all spend far too much time obtaining these basic necessities to develop as humans and to make progress in the arts, sciences and humanities
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Re: Big or small government?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:57 pm

But there is so much money sloshing about in collected taxes, election to government provides a powerful attraction to the acquisitive.
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Re: Big or small government?

Post by boatlady on Sun Sep 03, 2017 10:48 pm

I know - but at present - until we have universal telepathy or something - we seem to have a choice between being robbed big by a small number of already wealthy folk or robbed small by a large number of comparatively poor folk - I choose option 2
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Re: Big or small government?

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Sep 04, 2017 10:35 am

The not-inconsiderable cost of having a government would seem to me to require an equivalent value to be returned to the public by way of essential services. If an administration cannot ensure adequate food clothing shelter and security, what is it there for?
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Re: Big or small government?

Post by Phil Hornby on Mon Sep 04, 2017 4:17 pm

' If an administration cannot ensure adequate food clothing shelter and security, what is it there for? '

To serve the interests of Dacre, Murdoch et al , of course... Rolling Eyes
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Re: Big or small government?

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Sep 04, 2017 5:16 pm

The looming threat is from International Global companies who evade their liability to pay taxes. Apple; Alphabet (Google to you); Amazon - and that's only the first letter of the alphabet, use complex accounting to hide their profits away from mere Governments.

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Re: Big or small government?

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