Sunday, June 24, 2012

Small Government, Big Lies

Politicians and their economic sponsors successfully argue that less government means less lying and less stealing.

In fact this is not true. The lying and cheating that goes on outside of government has as great or greater effects on the well being of an ordinary citizen. Ordinary economic activity, if unchecked by government, favors the success of lying and cheating, leads to monopolies and knowingly and even intentionally disruptive speculation.

A decrease in the lying and cheating capacity of government leads to increasing capacity to lie and cheat in economic life.

To see this requires looking at how things work in practice. This involves paying special attention to the subject of economics and its influence on politics. But modern democratic life imposes ever greater social and professional specialization. The specialist does not want to use his free time to involve himself in another specialty, social or professional, considering the subject outside his field of expertise and interest.

It seems obvious that if you take a dangerous weapon away from a potential adversary you will be safer. The power of government can be used to enslave its people. That the potential adversary might also be a necessary ally is not obvious at all, since the other enemy is not an established institution enforcing written laws, but an economic and social result of countless individuals seeking their own interests over a period of time.

People think they are protecting their private lives by limiting intrusions on it by the government. But choosing to limit the bad government can do they choose also to limit the good, and they allow the economic foundations of their private lives to be undermined.

It might seem obvious that the alternative to disarming our peace officers is limiting the conditions under which they can use their weapons, but it is not obvious. In addition to disinterest in economic and political process, in other people's specialization, there is widespread distrust of, inexperience in dealing with the non-specialist, the sort of person who could balance fear of too much government control with the danger of too little. That there is a job opening for such a politician is not even recognized.