Let's Get Back To "Small Is Beautiful"

By Jon Kraushar Communications Consultant

For those searching for a theme to counter the return of the era of big government, big spending, big deficits and big pork projects, how about returning to the idea that "small is beautiful"?

If Republicans want to restore their credibility (as reformed spendaholics, as fiscally responsible and as constructive rather than just being obstructionist), let them rally America around the theme that "small is beautiful" as in small government, small business, small taxes, and even the smallest decisions made by individuals rather than large, intrusive one-size-fits-all, top down decisions made by bureaucrats and elitists.

Small (as in single) individuals making big (as in consequential) choices and pursuing big dreams in concert with their families, neighbors, co-workers, customers and other like-minded people is the process that has made our country great. The crisis that is corroding America is a crisis of trust and confidence and the solution to that crisis is the exact opposite of that coming from President Obama.

The president wants to upsizegovernment control over our lives (witness his 2010 budget), with a breathtakingly huge expansion of government spending of our money and of government's role in mandating markets rather than letting markets operate freely. We are looking at government running and directing banks, businesses, insurance companies, automakers and other private entities--and the price tag is gargantuan. We are being told that government will take over our choices regarding our health care and the education of our children.

But getting America moving again requires downsizingcontrol--transferring it from the federal level to the state, the local and the individual level. We don't trust Big Brother. But we can trust ourselves and we can trust the small circle of people and institutions that directly touch our lives.

Let's break it down to the manageable rather than build it up to the unmanageable. If banks or car companies for example have grown "too big to fail" and they keep failing, let's help them succeed by letting them become smaller. If they can't restructure or regenerate themselves at their present size then they need to break themselves up by selling parts of their operations, renegotiating with their shareholders, employees, lenders--whomever-- so that they get rightsized, which may mean that they exist in a new form or even cease to exist.

It is one thing for responsible, law-abiding, bill-paying, tax-paying citizens to be their brothers' keepers and to subsidize individuals, institutions or even businesses that are in trouble. If they decide to do that out of charity, fine. But big becomes bad when big means that responsible, prudent, play-by-the-rules people are forced to feed Big Brother and Big Problems not of their own making. Unchallenged, Big Brother will take us for all we are worth financially--and will do so with moral casuistry (bad outcomes hiding behind supposedly good intentions).

This applies to people who were predatory borrowers, buying homes they couldn't afford and taking on mortgages they couldn't pay for. Those folks need to work with their lenders (some of whom acted in a predatory, irresponsible way) to work out solutions. If there is a role for Big Government it is only to bring those parties together--not to take over those parties' toxic debt. When both parties have "skin in the game" to work out a solution, it will happen. It won't happen when the "skin" is the pounds and pounds of flesh being taken from innocent taxpayers.

Our economy will work itself out with workoutsat the small level of individuals dealing with other individuals (or individual organizations) over matters of financing and rearranging. Instead, we are getting big bailouts, orchestrated from a distance by big government bureaucrats and politicians, with sloppy, arbitrary, non-transparent, poorly managed results rife with conflicts of interest and opportunities for abuse that inspire no trust and confidence about the future.

Trust and confidence in the future cannot be imposed from on high by Big Government acting in a high-handed "we know better" fashion. "Trust us, we're from Big Government" is a proposition not borne out by experience.

Trust and confidence must be earned back at the small, one-on-one level, where results and adjustments are clear and by mutual consent. The pain of working out solutions at this small level will be intense for some. But it will wreak far less long-term damage than the big abdication of personal responsibility when you turn your money and your life over to Big Brother Government.

This is not throwing the weak to the wolves. It is throwing individuals together to work out their interests, needs, concerns, desires and futures--with the means and the ways available to them through free exchanges. That is how people fix problems.

It is getting uglier and uglier out there--with more fear and less confidence and trust--as Big Government grabs for more power. Obama's "New Era of Responsibility," with its spiraling government spending, planned tax increases, and agenda to override the free market, is turning into Ronald Reagan's nightmare definition of Big Government as, "...like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."

We can turn that around by starting small, with our own determination, then bringing in others and building from there, until, together our actions make a big difference. We need to stage a bottom-up outcry in the Court of Public Opinion and--that failing--we'll need to make changes in the next election cycle.

Let's get back to "small is beautiful" and take it from there.

Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net.