Thursday, July 23, 2009

How big is too big?

Radley Balko asks "lefty" bloggers ("lefty" being a term that includes everyone from Max Baucus to Che Guevara) how much government is too much.

The problem with Balko's question is that the underlying premise is false. As a libertarian, Balko accepts the idea expressed by Ronald Reagan that "government is the problem". Therefore, all government is bad, and therefore, government is always too big, and too expensive.

The Right's obsession with "big government" is a red herring, and always has been. The choice is, and always has been, between good government and bad government. As a libertarian, Balko believes that "good government" is a contradiction in terms, so he's reduced to arguing that since government is inherently bad, less government is better than more government.

If you reject Balko's unstated premise that government is always bad, then the answer to his question is pretty simple. Government should be big enough to do all the things the people want it to do, but no bigger. Taxes should be high enough to pay for all the things people want to pay for, but no higher.

Next question, please?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Government should be big enough to do all the things the people want it to do, but no bigger. Taxes should be high enough to pay for all the things people want to pay for, but no higher."

Who exactly is "people"? The majority? Congress?

HPT said...

I honestly don't understand your response. Balko's questions don't presume that all government is bad. His questions are compatible with believing that some government programs are good, that most of them are, or believing that everything the government does and more besides would be a good idea.

He's asking, in various precise ways, whether "all the things the people want it to do" could ever end up being so many things that the government should do fewer. In other words, he's not presuming that the government is too big right now. He's asking whether you, as someone who things it should be bigger, think it ever could be too big.

Brian S said...

Government should be big enough to do all the things the people want it to do, but no bigger. Taxes should be high enough to pay for all the things people want to pay for, but no higher.

Right, but you are a person. That makes you one of the people who will decide what all the things the government should do are. It also makes you one of the people who will decide how high the taxes should be. So Balko is asking you to identify what YOU, as one of the people, think is a big enough government to do all the things that YOU want government to do. And he's asking you to identify the level of taxation YOU want to put in place to pay for the things YOU want the government to do.

If the answer is, "Dang, I don't know, I haven't run the numbers yet," then don't you think maybe you should?

LJM said...

Balko replies here:

http://www.theagitator.com/2009/07/23/another-response/

Your response is not terribly honest. Contrary to your assertions, Balko is ready and willing to say how much government isn't too much (as are most libertarians) and he's not an anarchist. He's just asking you to say how much is too much. It's rather simple.

Old Fart said...

The problem with Balko's question is that the underlying premise is false. As a libertarian, Balko accepts the idea expressed by Ronald Reagan that "government is the problem". Therefore, all government is bad, and therefore, government is always too big, and too expensive.


What underlying premise? He's asking left leaning individuals to answer specific questions in regards to government, taxes, and the economy. If there is an underlying premise, it will come out in the answer.

Libertarians are not anarchists. We don't want government gone... we want it to provide only what the Constitution calls for it to provide. No more. No less. And we'd like it done with full transparency and accountability to the citizens, not the lobbyists.

Anonymous said...

I am ashamed to have grown up and lived in Newport. Truly a stupid answer.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you biffed it here, Johnny.

You need to differentiate between the underlying premise of Balko's politics and the underlying premise of this particular question. His politics obviously assume that government in most forms is bad. This question, however, assumes only that everyone believes in some ideal size of government. You even admit that there is an ideal size of government--"big enough to do all the things the people want it to do"--and that any larger government would be too large ("but no bigger"). Balko just wanted you to quantify that size of government using a few different metrics.

You didn't do that. In the process of cockily not answering, you advanced a stunningly naive theory of government. What does it mean for government to be "big enough" to do something? Who are "the people"? How do we decide what these "people" want? How do we stop the government from continuing to grow past its optimal size? How do we resolve conflicts between people with irreconcilable demands from the government? What if the people want something morally repugnant? Is it possible something that the people want to be morally repugnant? Your theory assumes that all of these questions are either already answered, or irrelevant. They are neither.

Think before you type. Please.

Anonymous said...

you should have kept your mouth shut, johnny pez. you are not helping your cause. you are just showing us all how ignorant and naive you are. this post does not even begin to answer the proposed question. which begs another question.... did you even understand what balko was asking? did you even read his question? your pointless rant of a post indicates otherwise.

Rhayader said...

Weak. Very weak. Not an answer at all.

Radley's set of questions were specific and fair-minded; it was not an attack or a statement, but an honest attempt at defining what modern-day statists think is the proper job of our government. Balko did not position himself as part of "The Right" (nor has he ever), or quote Reagan, or attempt to define the "proper" boundaries himself. It was a question; the concept isn't that difficult. Have the conviction to answer the thing, please.

Anonymous said...

"Government should be big enough to do all the things the people want it to do, but no bigger."

Wow. Do you have any concept whatsoever what you said there?

Obviously not. Posts like this are why people think leftists are retarded.

toothy

JPMcGrath said...

I must say, this non-response to Radley's question exhibits one of the most stunning logic failures that I have seen in some time. Your claim that the premise behind the question is false, is ... well, false. A question with a false premise is one where you must accept something false in order to directly answer the question. For example, if I ask you, "have you stopped beating your wife?", you must accept the premise that you have been beating your wife in order to give a direct "yes" or "no" answer. That is not the case with Radley's question.

Obviously, you do not need to accept his beliefs in order to give your own opinions about the what the size, cost, and influence of government should be. The fact that his answer would be different than yours, or that he would like you and others to clearly express your beliefs, does not make the question illegitimate.

So, the question remains, what limits would you put on the size, cost, and influence of the federal government? Why are you unwilling to answer?

JPMcGrath said...

In addition to the logic failure I pointed out above, there is another one that I think should be pointed out. Starting with Reagan's statement that "government is the problem" and claim that implies that "all government is bad", which of course, does not follow. It is possible for government to be doing some that are not a problem, along with other things that are.

If you read Radley's blog, or were even vaguely familiar with libertarian philosophy, you would realize that libertarians do not believe that all government is bad. They believe there are legitimate functions of government, but that the government also is involved in many areas that it should not be.

The fact that you conflate libertarians with "the right" is puzzling. While libertarians believe in less obtrusive government, as do some on the right, differences in their beliefs in areas such as civil liberties, police power, and drug policy are profound.