Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I like Ilya Somin's explanation of Why the Size of Goverment Matters

Ilya Somin makes some good points in Why the Size of Government Matters. He starts with:

----------
In his inaugural address, President Obama said that "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works." This is a commonly heard argument in response to concerns about the growth of government. Who could possibly be against government when it "works"? Why not instead consider each proposed expansion of the state on a case by case basis, supporting those that "work" and opposing any that don't?

Taken seriously, this argument leads to the rejection of any systematic constraints on government power. Why should we have a general presumption against government regulation of speech or religion? Why not instead support censorship when it "works" by improving the marketplace of ideas, and oppose it when it doesn't? Think of all the misleading speech and religious charlatans that government regulation could potentially save us from! The answer, of course, is that government regulation of speech and religion has systematic dangers that are not unique to any one particular regulation. Given those systematic flaws, it makes sense to have a general presumption against it.
----------

(Hat tip: Instapundit)


---------
Technorati tags: government

4 comments:

Kim said...

From the article:

"The answer, of course, is that government regulation of speech and religion has systematic dangers that are not unique to any one particular regulation. Given those systematic flaws, it makes sense to have a general presumption against it.

The same holds true for government intervention more generally, including in the economy. It too has systematic flaws that justify a presumption against it. Three of those flaws are particularly relevant to current policy debates."


I couldn't disagree more. Not with the conclusion of keeping the government out of such work, but that the reason one shouldn't use the government to regulate things such as speech, or religion, or the economy is not because it's not practical or because of unintended consequences, but because it is a violation of the rights of citizens.

Ilya Somin comes is producing a pragmatic argument at a time when pragmatism needs to be rebuffed.

Luke said...

Interesting argument. I like it: We aren't exactly after what "works"--because, often, what "works" is actually far more damaging, like, as Kim points out, in the area of liberties.

~Luke

Demosthenes said...

The real question here is what you define "works" as. Currently, in America, we are losing jobs, fighting wars, and in the position where China could destroy us without even waging war (all they would have to do is cut off supplies and ask for their money back, then other nations would want their debt paid, and when America fails to do this it starts losing power and influence, the problems start, and our superpower nation falls, leaving a power void which China will promptly fill. They don't have to raise a finger!). Why would anyone consider this a government that works? Because even though it has faced terrible leaders, the country has pulled through. That was how Rome was set up, that the country would last no matter who is in charge, but it still fell. So, does for a government to be "working" does it mean that the nation will survive as long as possible, even under terrible leaders (in which case it would be essential to have a big government to keep any one person from becoming too powerful, or have the position of government just be an empty title with no power at all. In the second circumstance we would end up like the Sumerians fighting each other, or just become a pile of clans.), or does a successful government mean that it has to get things done (this is where a small government is necessary), or, as your hinting, does a successful government mean one government that rules the world? Although you seem to be beating around the bush, it seems to me that you are trying to find how a government should work by saying how it shouldn't (you don't really believe we shouldn't have freedom of speech and religion, right? That government would be doomed to fail. As my history teacher once told me, "Nations that rule by spear point fall by spear point." as the Assyrians soon proved.). For there to ever be a close to perfect government the whole world would be treated as a country, and the countries as states. Therefore the government would control the internal feuds and treat it like one giant USA (I know, things aren't looking great for America now, but the basis was a good one). Then we could make the galaxy our world and treat planets like countries (JK).
-Demosthenes

Henry Cate said...

Demosthenes, you make some good points.

> I know, things aren't looking great for America now, but the basis was a good one

I agree.