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Delicious Pundit

This is why they're coming for one of the last bastions of the middle class, government workers.

Perhaps the Tories were right in the 1770s about what is bound to happen to republics.

Ken Muldrew

Governments are, first and last, protection rackets. That's the one "service" that can never be cut (here libertarians and anarchists maintain the same delusion that any downsizing of the current government will not create a niche for entrepreneurial thugs). The whole trick is to maximize the collective goods and services produced by government while minimizing the time and effort spent trying to eliminate parasitism. Sadly, that's a hard trick to master because you get into diminishing returns way before you get anywhere close to eliminating parasitism.

It's kind of like the quip by Paul Newman in The Color of Money, "Money won is twice as sweet as money earned". People will gladly spend two dollars to prevent someone from getting one dollar without earning it. So any effort where it's hard to measure success as a function of money spent get clobbered. Charities, relief efforts, stimulus spending...all such programs are saddled with massive oversight and auditing costs because the thought of losing 10% to graft is simply too painful to bear (the point being that it takes ten times the oversight effort to reduce graft from 10% to 1% so a rational being would try to find some optimum and not drive themselves crazy over the fact that some cheaters are getting something for nothing).

Fundamentally, people have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that humans are a hybrid, part social animal and part individual. It's so much easier to stick with the illusion that we are all autonomous individuals, completely independent of each other and fully responsible for our own actions as if there is no social context for those actions, than to look around at the massive fragmentation of human activity that supports our organizations (governments, corporations, communities,..., everything). We act as if every individual should make the time to go through national, state, and municipal budgets in detail so that they don't come to town hall meetings and suggest bake sales to cover multi-million dollar shortfalls, yet we don't stop to wonder where people are supposed to find the extra 365 days/year that it's going to take to study those budgets. Ah, but we can elect a representative to go through those budgets on our behalf, but then we're back to electing people who tell us that we can have our cake and eat it rather than people who tell us what we would find out if we went through those budgets ourselves.

actor212

He made Scroogishness feel like a virtue and being Scrooge a pleasant and even admirable way to be.

If only he was that admirable. Reagan instituted deficit financing of day-to-day operations, effectively putting the American government to using credit cards to pay for their daily bread. He was no Scrooge, who could make a penny scream.

By the way, Lance, the Galt faction has its experiment.

Let's see what happens.

Belvoir

Splendid, splendid post, Lance. Ferociously true, and saddening to me. My nieces and nephews are quite young; I'm 41, and the thought that things like music and arts and sports in school are already becoming disappearing "luxuries" - well what sort of society shal we have in the future, if this becomes the case? Also rueful thinking how well I had it at my public school, in comparison.
Didn't know how lucky we had it.

"It is a bedrock belief of all anti-tax types that they themselves are the only people in the United States paying taxes."

Thanks especially for this. Because from my own observations, discussions, arguments on the Internet, it's absolutely true. They alone pay taxes, and they believe that anyone not like them (ethnically, usually) are all living on Easy Street," Cadillac queens, young bucks buying steaks."

Resentment. Working so hard, getting so little. Understandable in a way. But they are also the Fox-watchers and Tea-Partiers who decry taxing megacorporations as socialism.

There's just a very real mean, selfish Puritan, resentful streak in the American psyche. It's always been there, but now it's loud and proud and rather dumb.

Rana

I wouldn't point the fingers at the Puritans, who by most accounts were pretty good on the day to day running of things, and tended to be practical in their governance. Instead, I'd blame those who came to the New World looking for easy riches, and who were bitterly disappointed to discover that, for most of them, there was no such thing. The West is full of such types (I know, I grew up there), but there's also a Southern flavor that dates back to the time of the colonies, when people were drawn first by imaginary gold, then the promise of tobacco and cotton.

burritoboy

"Perhaps the Tories were right in the 1770s about what is bound to happen to republics."

Not precisely the Tories, but that modern philosophy was wrong to reject Aristotle's political philosophy. By the way, I would argue that Aristotle's classification of the current US regime as an aristocracy (aristocracy correctly describes the situation when you have a small elected legislature representing a huge population) is correct. And Aristotle correctly predicts that aristocracies decline into oligarchies. We have seen in history that Aristotle was correct about the medieval city states, who declined into oligarchy and were correctly replaced by monarchies and we see it in the American regime.

Min

There is an important difference between the state and local governments and the federal government. The first two rely on taxes to spend money, the last one relies on spending money to collect taxes. That sounds weird, but think about it. Where does the money to pay taxes come from?

For more, see http://mosler2012.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/7deadly.pdf . Mosler explains it well.

In our current crisis, it does little good to point fingers. We need to pull together. Unless we want a lost decade or a double dip recession, or even a depression, we have to put people back to work. If that means hiring music teachers for school kids, so much the better. The currently proposed jobs bill is grossly inadequate. Even its proponents say it will leave us with high unemployment for years. Fears that we cannot afford it are unfounded, as far as the federal government is concerned. We cannot afford not to get our economy on its feet again.

burritoboy


Min,

"We cannot afford not to get our economy on its feet again."

Of course we can. We can always turn to right-wing authoritarianism, as capitalist democracies often do when their economies decline. Obama, correctly, tried the national unity government approach (which worked reasonably well in Depression England and France and which Weimar Germany was trying to achieve in the same time frame), but the Right strongly rejected the only probable correct path. I would argue a turn to a military dictatorship is perhaps the best possible outcome we can see in the US. There's far worse things that the Right seems to be quite actively hoping and organizing for.

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