A recent article in Fortune Magazine ("It's Time for A New Version of Government") reminded me just how destructive the smartest among us can be when they grab control of the levers of political power or when their “wisdom” is used by politicians and bureaucrats as the basis of some grand new scheme to “reinvent” government.
In this latest reinvention, what is being called “Government 2.0,” government is envisioned to be “a citizen-centric philosophy and strategy that believes the best results are usually driven by partnerships between citizens and government, at all levels”—what I have called "Contracting Out Tyranny," ruinous schemes at which Republicans and business leaders are particularly adept.
The truth is, we don’t need a new vision of government; we need less government, period.
From the time of Woodrow Wilson, at least, the best and the brightest among us have been in constant search of ways to reinvent government to make it more citizen-centric, more citizen-friendly, more efficient, more rational, more empowering of citizens, more efficient, more management oriented, more transparent, more businesslike with more citizen engagement, more stakeholders and more new technologies, which the smarties believe will leverage government to achieve the greater good and the general welfare. Woodrow Wilson, call your office; Your Grand Government Delusion is alive and well among the smarty set, all empirical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
Let me offer the counter hypothesis, one supported by a century of empirical evidence: A little bit more of this and a little bit more of that where government is concerned all adds up to nothing more than, well, more government, not better government—the Grand Delusion, not the grand solution. What the smart guys never seem to get is that the only good government is small government.
More of anything where government is concerned means more government, and more government is the problem, not the solution. The very fact that the best and the brightest among us feel the need to keep reinventing government every few years proves government doesn’t work. The solution is less government. How difficult is that to understand?
One would think after a century of ever-growing government concurrently with ever growing social and economic problems it would dawn on the smartest among us that the common element in the build up of problems facing the nation has been more government. So here’s an idea: How about giving less government a chance? Giving less government a chance is the central, spontaneously organizing principle around which resurgent grass-roots political action is arising. That rumbling one hears from the grassroots is building to a crescendo: “All we are saying is give less government a chance.”
No wonder. Government is a serial offender when it comes to stealing from its citizens and abusing them, all in the name of the greater good and general welfare, of course. Yet, we keep giving more government an infinity of second chances. Isn’t it time we stopped enabling government? Isn’t it time we stopped listening to politicians’ and bureaucrats’ lame excuses? Isn’t it time to revoke the probationary work-release program government has been free on now for a hundred years and put it back in the constitutional chains the Founding Fathers bound it in originally?
The problem of government can be stated succinctly in biological terms: Government is what biologists call cacophonous—a creature that feeds on its own excrement. Government nourishes itself on the problems it creates. The more it eats, the more it excretes, and the more it excretes, the more it eats until pretty soon it is obese, and we are all knee deep in government doo-doo.
In virtually everything government does, it is reacting to problems it created in the first place and then exacerbated by interventions to correct the problems it created, which then justifies further interventions and creates more problems and so on ad infinitum. Thus does government become a serial citizen abuser with its chronic meddling in human affairs.
When Galileo Galilei was forced to his knees before the Pope to recant his belief in the heliocentric theory, he defiantly uttered sotto voce, “Eppur si muove” (“Nonetheless, [the Earth] does move”). The not-so-quiet defiance toward politicians and bureaucrats boiling up from the grassroots today may not be so exquisitely rendered in Latin— “excrementa tua vorare”—but the Anglo Saxonism one hears increasingly uttered instead when people find themselves prostrate under the heavy boot of government serves well both as observation and invective, exposing a crude reality crudely, and effectively. Government is, after all, literally an excrement eater; a simple biological description of what government is and does.
Dr. Hunter is president of The Alliance for Retirement Prosperity