In all ages, whatever the form and name of government, be it monarchy, republic, or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the facade… — Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution
The ultimate problem is the pervasive political ignorance on the part of the American people. And indifference to the threat that is emerging from these concealed institutions. That is where the energy for reform has to come from: the American people. Not from government. Government is very much the problem here. The people have to take the bull by the horns. And that’s a very difficult thing to do, because the ignorance is in many ways rational. There is very little profit to be had in learning about, and being active about, problems that you can’t affect, policies that you can’t change.
Michael J. Glennon, Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change. – Ideas – The Boston Globe.
This goes to the core of everything I believe in. Since we are fallen, error-prone people, my view is that no person or group of persons should ever be given free rein to take the country wherever he or she wants. There have to be checks to prevent arrogance and pride. Plus, politics is generally a competition between half-truths, so we all need somebody to balance our own errors.
David Brooks, via Groundhog Days – NYTimes.com.
A massive trove of surveillance data on everyone is incredibly tempting for all parts of government to use. Once we have everyone’s data, it’ll be hard to prevent it from being used to solve conventional crimes and for all sorts of things. It’s a totalitarian governments wet dream.
Emerson’s journals, 1844–1845: “As we read the newspapers, and we see the effrontery with which money & power carry their ends, and ride over honesty & good-meaning, morals & religion seem to become mere shrieking & impotence.” It could have been written today.
And so could this, from 1847: “It seems to be settled that no act of honor or benevolence or justice is to be expected from the American Government, but only this. That they will be as wicked as they dare.”
One issue is the size of government, as indicated by government spending per capita, government spending as a share of GDP, or other broad measures. The other is the complexity of government, as measured by the proliferation of the tax code and regulations, subsidies for particular industries, or other specific policies. Size and complexity often go together: the labyrinth of the defense budget is a good example. But they need not do so: although Social Security is fiscally gargantuan, it is a rather simple program.
Conservative critiques tend to identify gargantuan size as the main problem with modern administrative state. This argument, however, usually fails to connect with ordinary citizens, who generally like big government provided that it is delivered in a predictable and relatively transparent way. Social Security, again, is a case in point. According to this poll, for example, 53% of American prefer raising taxes to changing the retirement age or lowering benefits.
A new study by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University shows that most Americans who say they want more limited government also call Social Security and Medicare “very important.” They want Washington to be involved in schools and to help reduce poverty. Nearly half want the government to maintain a role in regulating health care.
A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. — Edward R. Murrow