Monday, May 21, 2007

The GOP's Small Government Lie

One of the tallest tales told by the modern GOP is that smaller government will liberate people. But power does not reside in a vacuum. If government regulation shrinks, other powers swiftly move in to feed off the spoils of their victory. This truth is already more that evident from more than 20 years of Reagan-Clinton statecraft. What are the spoils that are fed upon? The people themselves. The fantasy of ruggedly individual Americans spreading their wings and taking over where government left off is a useful fable to obscure us from the facts. The average American has neither the time nor the money to fo much more than they are already doing, which is keeping their heads above water, thanks to the shrinkage of government.

Shrinkage of government, or “starving the beast” as the Book of Revelation-types in power would have it, is a code word for enlarging the corporate warlords that already hold much sway. For some reason, proponents of such philosophies fail to produce examples of utopian small government states in the real world. The reason for this failure is simple: every nation with a small or shrinking government is part of the third world and ruled by warlords. One need not ask such people to put their money where their mouth is, Love America or Leave It, and go to a country with a size of government more to their liking. Such a request is useless, for we all know such people do not want to live in Ecuador, Uzbekistan, or Somalia.

When they say they want small government, they haven’t the slightest idea what they are talking about, never having actually experienced the pleasures of living in a state with “voluntary” environmental laws, or without labor laws, without anti-trust laws. One can only assume that one month spent in Bolivia, where the IMF has instituted the capitalist dream of an obedient state bowing to big corporations, would have such people begging for a bit of the public health, infrastructure investment, and cultural funding that they so laughably label “socialism.”

It reminds me of the contemptuous comment made by a young friend that because of “environmentalists” we can’t even go out and cut our own Christmas trees. I think she got that from Forbes, advocate no doubt of ordinary folks, not timber companies. One must only respond to such comments that the continued existence of any trees at all is largely due to the efforts of environmentalists and the federal government – or, sorry, “the beast.” I would like to suggest that she take a tour of the hills around Port Au Prince, Haiti. In that happy land, no stuck-up environmentalist is around to tell people how to live. When one lifts one’s eyes to the hills, all one sees is desolation: hills bled of topsoil until only the limestone bones are left showing. Such lies and fantasies are easily punctured by looking around the world at real places. No wealthy society has ever become wealthy without a powerful government: not England, not Japan, not Germany, not the United States. The fact that the companies that grew up on the back of our government now want to weaken it should tell us something – something about hubris, about greed, about ruthlessness.

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