November 17, 2004

The Challenge For Small Government Advocates

For those of us who have our heads out in the sunlight (instead of stuck in an orifice) who believe that smaller government would be better for society, we inevitably come to a big problem. Big government solutions will always have an attractiveness to politicians because, unlike small government solutions, they can be readily identified with a party, with a politician, can be packaged into a brochure that says "I did this, reelect me". Aside from any ideological positions a particular pol may have, all politicians deeply desire the ability to say such things because they are the fundamental, bedrock argument for reelection and a continuing career for the politician. Personal interest must be taken into account.

The small government advocate's cupboard of accomplishments is always going to be less well stocked than his big government brethren's. The problem is easily illustrated by President Bush's father President GHWB with his thousand points of light. A charity is started, does GHWB get the credit for it? The practical answer is generally not, even though his creating a space for that charity might have been crucial in the decision for it to be called into existence. Another charity increases its activities, is GHWB credited? Again, no, as it might have done so anyway.

The social good that a small government politician does is only partially captured by current mechanisms while the social good that a big government politician does is counted and counted again as it's the gross good, not the net that gets credited to him. Indirect, negative private effects are seldom linked unless they are very obvious and such negative effects often take many years to show up as Atlee in the UK and Wagner in NYC played to their benefit.

This is an insight that, unfortunately I don't have a definitive answer for. Perhaps someone will suggest something in comments.

Posted by TMLutas at November 17, 2004 09:01 AM