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Rain Man
09-23-2011, 11:05 PM
I was pondering the other day the debate between bigger government and smaller government.

It occurred to me that many arguments for smaller government use a historical context. "In the 1960s, we...". "In the Roosevelt era..."

I was thinking about society, and wonder if government is always destined and needed to get bigger. In the Millard Fillmore era we didn't have to worry about Internet law or air traffic control or the FCC or having nuclear subs or a bunch of other things that are really kind of necessary if we have things like the Internet and airplanes and TV and the Middle East.

So if our civilization advances, then must our government also expand in proportion?

And if our government expands, our tax burden does as well. If the civilization advances produce more prosperity and more money, then it seems like it should more than cover the cost, right?

But what covers the cost? Does having the Internet produce enough prosperity to cover the cost of regulating it? Does the air industry produce enough prosperity to cover the cost of regulating it?

And what if they don't? Does that mean that civilization is destined to fall beneath its own weight? Or is there a natural ceiling beyond which civilization becomes unsustainable? Is there a scenario where a new advance comes along, but the government has to ban it because otherwise it can't regulate it?

Just some Friday night thinking.

alnorth
09-23-2011, 11:10 PM
Well, theoretically one might hope that if the population expands, then the new people wont be lazy bums. If productivity and wealth expands, the size of the pie also expands, and 25% (or whatever) of the bigger pie might cover the costs.

Then again, we also demand more services and benefits than prior generations, and we're not talking about just the poor either, most republicans would, without any irony at all, bristle at the thought of entitlement cuts and want the govt to keep their hands off their (socialist) medicare and (almost socialist) social security.

We haven't brought the taxes up to meet the demand, instead choosing to borrow for it. The people ultimately won't accept the steep cuts needed to balance without raising taxes, so yeah, taxes have to go up, and its probably due to entitlements more than technological advances.

Rain Man
09-23-2011, 11:22 PM
You're bringing up some related issues, but I think I'm trying to communicate something a little different.

If I understand properly, you're talking first about scale (more people). I would agree that it's not unreasonable to assume that new people can pull their weight, so I don't think that's a problem.

And demands for more services may increase as civilization increases and people get softer and less directly attached to their own direct hunting and gathering. But in the end, that's still discretionary.

I'm asking more about a true need for more regulation and more enforcement, which takes resources. For example, medical advances occur, but lead to situations like people being kept alive via respirators and other artificial means. That then requires laws. Maybe in this case the medical advances produce prosperity that outstrips the cost of the new regulation, but this may not true in all cases.

BucEyedPea
09-23-2011, 11:25 PM
I was taught that the nature of govt is to grow and expand because of human nature. This is why we had our Constitution written the way it was written. That doesn't mean that as society expands govt can't or shouldn't grow. I should just grow in proportion. That proportion is out of whack due to the ideological shift of the country over the past 70 years. Now many of the people are almost as corrupt as the politicians wanting more for less and for less effort. When govt grows out of proportion to society's growth corruption is a given to expand along with it. It's always been that way because it's human nature. Which is why democracies, social democracies and socialisms don't work. Or any other form of BIG govt that doesn't balance freedom between the group and the individual with some rules. ( which include costs) I think the rules we were given worked.

alnorth
09-23-2011, 11:35 PM
Yeah I see now, entitlements and our current problems are only loosely related to the topic. This is more philosophy than a USA thing.

I think one issue is that comparing regulation today to the past may not be apples to apples because people were not worried about safety as much because people were more concerned about the problems of eating and trying not to die before age 50.

112 people died during the construction of the Hoover Dam? Sad. Make sure the widows and orphans get the standard settlement check. What can you do though, the desert southwest needs the water and its not possible to build such a huge thing without a ton of deaths. (all while naively not realizing that yeah, it is possible, we just don't want the expense of being safe) Ditto with large buildings, canals, food poisoning, medical quackery, etc.

Now everyone's got plenty to eat, medicine (whether you can afford it or not, go BK if you have to) lets you live to a ripe old age if you aren't unlucky, don't overeat, and don't get a rare illness. Now death seems a lot more unnecessary and avoidable. Seeing someone die for something stupid because a company or government was careless is horrifying. The Hoover Dam wouldn't kill so many people today, but it might take longer to build for more inflation-adjusted money. If people were dropping like flies, it would be stopped at around death #20 and a congressional probe would be opened with people yelling for jailtime for somebody, anybody.

I think we've reached a new equilibrium, I don't think in the future we'll demand more regulation relative to today, or at least I hope not. For a new industry with a certain inherent level of hazard, the cost of regulation (passed on to someone, ultimately the consumer or taxpayer) will be just an expense like taxes, maintenance, sales commissions, etc. Now throw in the regulatory surcharge.

In a nutshell, its different today. Going forward, I don't think the cost of regulation will go up on a relative basis to wealth, so I don't think the civilization cap will be reached for as long as advancement is possible.

Ace Gunner
09-23-2011, 11:45 PM
historically, big gov't is 100% fail. evident all the way back to the roman empire and beyond.

Rain Man
09-24-2011, 12:20 AM
I was taught that the nature of govt is to grow and expand because of human nature. This is why we had our Constitution written the way it was written. That doesn't mean that as society expands govt can't or shouldn't grow. I should just grow in proportion. That proportion is out of whack due to the ideological shift of the country over the past 70 years. Now many of the people are almost as corrupt as the politicians wanting more for less and for less effort. When govt grows out of proportion to society's growth corruption is a given to expand along with it. It's always been that way because it's human nature. Which is why democracies, social democracies and socialisms don't work. Or any other form of BIG govt that doesn't balance freedom between the group and the individual with some rules. ( which include costs) I think the rules we were given worked.

I can agree that human nature could lead to unnecessary growth, and I can also agree that an ideological flaw could lead to disproportionate growth. But is it possible that structural change could lead to disproportionate growth? For example, we invent the car. The car is great. We all like the car. It adds to our quality of life, presumably.

But along with the car we have to fund roads. And we have to have pollution laws. And we have to have a foreign policy to deal with the House of Saud. And we have to go fight in Iraq occasionally. And we have to have NHTSA to take the spear points out of the middle of the steering wheel and to check air bags, and we have to have Senate inquiries into rollover SUVs and Firestone tires.

Inventing the car was great, but the car necessitates the invention of a whole lot of new government functions. NHTSA wasn't required before the car was invented, and few people would say that it's not needed now. So do our cars make us enough money more to pay the taxes that we need to fund laws and programs that allow cars to operate?

Rain Man
09-24-2011, 12:22 AM
historically, big gov't is 100% fail. evident all the way back to the roman empire and beyond.

But what's "big government"? When hi-res color copiers became common, I suspect that the Secret Service had to double the size of their anti-counterfeiting unit. Do people make more money by having color copiers that allows them to help fund a bigger Secret Service?

Rain Man
09-24-2011, 12:30 AM
Now everyone's got plenty to eat, medicine (whether you can afford it or not, go BK if you have to) lets you live to a ripe old age if you aren't unlucky, don't overeat, and don't get a rare illness. Now death seems a lot more unnecessary and avoidable. Seeing someone die for something stupid because a company or government was careless is horrifying. The Hoover Dam wouldn't kill so many people today, but it might take longer to build for more inflation-adjusted money. If people were dropping like flies, it would be stopped at around death #20 and a congressional probe would be opened with people yelling for jailtime for somebody, anybody.




Good point. If an advancing civilization means longer lives and less tolerance for error, it also requires more legislation for those older people and tighter controls to prevent premature deaths.


I think we've reached a new equilibrium, I don't think in the future we'll demand more regulation relative to today, or at least I hope not. For a new industry with a certain inherent level of hazard, the cost of regulation (passed on to someone, ultimately the consumer or taxpayer) will be just an expense like taxes, maintenance, sales commissions, etc. Now throw in the regulatory surcharge.

In a nutshell, its different today. Going forward, I don't think the cost of regulation will go up on a relative basis to wealth, so I don't think the civilization cap will be reached for as long as advancement is possible.

I would hope that's not the case. But I can't help but wonder.

And even if it's not a civilization cap, it seems like there could be nominal advances that seem positive on the surface, but which require an expansion of government that is hidden, and which outweighs the benefit. I don't know if it's a theoretical construct or if it's real, but it could be real and I suspect it is.

BucEyedPea
09-24-2011, 12:45 AM
I can agree that human nature could lead to unnecessary growth, and I can also agree that an ideological flaw could lead to disproportionate growth. But is it possible that structural change could lead to disproportionate growth? For example, we invent the car. The car is great. We all like the car. It adds to our quality of life, presumably.

But along with the car we have to fund roads. And we have to have pollution laws. And we have to have a foreign policy to deal with the House of Saud. And we have to go fight in Iraq occasionally. And we have to have NHTSA to take the spear points out of the middle of the steering wheel and to check air bags, and we have to have Senate inquiries into rollover SUVs and Firestone tires.

Inventing the car was great, but the car necessitates the invention of a whole lot of new government functions. NHTSA wasn't required before the car was invented, and few people would say that it's not needed now. So do our cars make us enough money more to pay the taxes that we need to fund laws and programs that allow cars to operate?

I don't think most of the things you named need to come with a car or require action by govt, let alone a "whole lot of new govt functions." That's just a myth. The ones that are needed, like perhaps some pollution laws* and roads—some of which can be built privately or paid with tolls aren't really asking for much. Most of the roads can be built and/or maintained by states.

I have no idea what the actual cost accounting or analysis is for a car in relation additional govt needed for it. I'd say if we need to handle it with redistribution, then there's probably too much govt being used by that car or shall I say too many costs to keep it. If that were handled by the private sector via markets, consumers would know much faster if it was worth it or not as they'd feel the cost directly. Then someone would come along with a better idea or product, that was cheaper, sooner than if govt had to be called on to deal with it.

* Done sanely — not by micromanagement because someone needs a job in an agency.
Ya' know just say this is the level you can't go over with a pollutant but not telling people and business what contraption they should use to achieve that level. The businesses know their business better than a bureaucrat from the outside who wants a job by erecting a massive agency to tell them what to do.

BucEyedPea
09-24-2011, 12:53 AM
But what's "big government"?

I can tell you what BIG govt means to me, and usually most conservatives—it's limiting the federal govt to it's Constitutionally authorized and enumerated powers unless an Amendment is passed. It's not just about costs, as if one is running a business. It can't be run as a business because it doesn't really produce something to exchange with a buyer. It's about power. Power must be diffused and not concentrated in one central national govt. If there is any product govt is supposed to produce, in our system....it's liberty. That means protection of rights mainly. I mean what costs are there with telling people how to eat or if they should or should not smoke? That only matters if govt is paying for healthcare. But it got into healthcare, to make it more affordable allegedly. That wasn't the results though. So that would be BIG govt. It's out of proportion.

Ace Gunner
09-24-2011, 12:59 AM
But what's "big government"? When hi-res color copiers became common, I suspect that the Secret Service had to double the size of their anti-counterfeiting unit. Do people make more money by having color copiers that allows them to help fund a bigger Secret Service?

when movie stars and billionaires show interest in public service and actually occupy such functions, shit is big.

patteeu
09-24-2011, 02:01 PM
I agree with the idea that people either have to give up more of their freedom to government (or big business or some other bureaucratic organizing body) or give up on some of the advancements that are possible through technology on an ongoing basis as civilization advances.

It makes sense that the cost of this organizing body would increase at the same time, but there's probably also a countering factor involved in that technology can work to decrease the cost of regulation at the same time that it's increasing the need for it. Imagine how expensive our IRS would be if their work was all done manually without the help of computers and electronic communications.

I think there's some point at which we will not accept technological advance if it costs us too much freedom (or too much of our total income), but I think we'll give up quite a bit more than we have so far.

BucEyedPea
09-24-2011, 03:02 PM
Technological advancements do NOT stem from govt. It's the other way around—coming from freedom from govt. Another myth that the left and big govt advocates promote.

banyon
09-24-2011, 05:11 PM
historically, big gov't is 100% fail. evident all the way back to the roman empire and beyond.

What great "small government" civilization has prospered through history without fail or getting wiped out by another "big government" civilization?

I mean native Americans were pretty small government, right? Who embodies this mythical ideal of the ever-prosperous and steadfast small government society that didn't grow?

banyon
09-24-2011, 05:12 PM
Technological advancements do NOT still from govt. It's the other way around. Another myth that the left and big govt advocates promote.

It doesn't have to be promoted, it's fact.

Many innovations have come from private industry, some have come from public. Deny the nose on your face if you continue to wish to do so.

go bowe
09-24-2011, 05:33 PM
nose?

pea brain has a nose?

patteeu
09-24-2011, 06:05 PM
Technological advancements do NOT stem from govt. It's the other way aroundócoming from freedom from govt. Another myth that the left and big govt advocates promote.

Thanks for the random thought. As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with this thread or any of the posts in it though.

Rain Man
09-24-2011, 07:14 PM
I agree with the idea that people either have to give up more of their freedom to government (or big business or some other bureaucratic organizing body) or give up on some of the advancements that are possible through technology on an ongoing basis as civilization advances.

It makes sense that the cost of this organizing body would increase at the same time, but there's probably also a countering factor involved in that technology can work to decrease the cost of regulation at the same time that it's increasing the need for it. Imagine how expensive our IRS would be if their work was all done manually without the help of computers and electronic communications.

I think there's some point at which we will not accept technological advance if it costs us too much freedom (or too much of our total income), but I think we'll give up quite a bit more than we have so far.

Logically, it would seem that most new technology would produce more tax benefits than they consume through increased prosperity. But even if they do, government would still get bigger.

I would agree, though, that we're not yet at a point where a choice is obviously required. I think we're still at full speed ahead.