Sunday, June 25, 2017

Big Government Vs. Small Government

The big government vs. small government debate means to me absolutely nothing. The reason is that both the government and the private sector consist of people; and there is no reason to expect people inside the government or people outside the government to be better or worse than the other.

Thomas Hobbes, whose work has been highly influential in European politics, claimed that human existence was “nasty, brutish and short” and that the solution was a strong state. His error was failing to recognize that the state consisted of the same sinful people as did the rest of the world, and there was no reason to think that people within the state would behave better than people outside the state. There are any number of others who demonize the state and see it as the organ of tyranny and corruption. What they fail to recognize is that the private sector, which many of them glorify, consists of people as much as does the state, and there is no reason to think that people in private sector would behave better than people in the government.

Is government the sole organ of tyranny and corruption? There are tyrannical bosses; tyrannical parents; tyrannical religious sects. There are corrupt corporations, corrupt networks in law and medicine, corrupt communities that subvert police and social services to protect incest and family brutality. That the government is capable of wrongdoing is certainly correct. However in no way is it the only possible source of wrongdoing.

Stalin was horrible; but so is the Russian mafia. Oracle Corporation is great; but so was Theodore Roosevelt. Governments can be good or bad; but so can all sorts of entities that are not the government. In both cases we see entities composed of people. And anything composed of people can be good or bad.

The push to privatize everything has been misguided. When Mobutu Sese-Seko privatized different parts of the government, his country did not get better; it got worse. In Florida, where prisons have been privatized, the result has been a vast corruption. I know someone who went away for 2 years for a DUI and who found out that in prisons the police gave girls drugs in return for sex. When prisons are privatized, the police have an incentive to lock up as many people as they can. That does not improve the situation; it makes it much worse.

Really, who is worse: Russian mafia or Mikhail Gorbachev? Who is worse: Westboro Baptists or Bill Clinton? Government is neither Satan nor God. Governments consist of people; so do all sorts of other things. Neither the public sector nor the private sector are better or worse than the other. Both can be good or bad, and for the reason listed above: That both consist of people.

These entities are therefore equal – either in mutual virtue or mutual sin. Or, as is more reasonable to conclude, in capacity for both.


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