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Excellent point, Steve. using that old saying: One person's concept of Govt waste is often another person's job.

I provide the following example as an example of perceptions of waste. The Dem strategy appears to be shift Federal spending from defense to infrastructure. Trading (perhaps more) low paying less technical jobs for (perhaps fewer) high tech higher paying jobs.

Steve, I look forward to hearing you've increased your taxes voluntarily to pay for the great experimentation benefits that the government is giving us. :)

The difference missed in this post is whether the property was rightfully taken to begin with. I cannot (morally) rob Tiger Woods of his income so that I can "experiment" on his dime. But he can experiment with his own property however he sees fit.

That distinction is catastrophic to any economic argument in defense of government action.

Plus of course, no one needs to let government "experiment with socialism" or "price controls" or any other nonsense - which they will do if they get a chance. Government is staffed with people that tend to substitute force for thinking (they start with forcible taxation after all ...).

The "government should experiment" has proven fatal to every society where it's been tried. I should hope those empirical results will keep anyone highly skeptical of any pro-government claims ....

According to Gula, you are committing an informal fallacy, an argument whose stated premise fails to support the proposed conclusion. Of course there is waste in everything, but a certain percentage of Tiger Woods shots are great, whereas none of mine are. To support your conclusion, you have to show that government, irrespective of waste, produces superior results by some metric over another approach.

Also, you contradict yourself. Waste is ok when it comes to government spending but is not ok when it challenges your belief system, i.e., “let's stop wasting time spewing hot air about waste.” This is a subtle attempt at censorship.

Government’s *duty* is to produce national security, justice, an educated population, certain types of infrastructure, and a stable currency. It has, by consent of the people, a monopoly on the “production” of those. The people assigned those to the government, so the question as to whether the people could do them better is irrelevant.

I want government to do a better job carrying out its duties, starting with national security, which (in my book, and many others’) includes independence from foreign oil.

My taxes will increase automatically as innovation and the growth it generates causes my income to increase -- without any increase in my tax rates, I might add. So I happily volunteer to pay any additional tax dollars that result from the application of an unchanged tax rate to whatever increase I get in my income. Unless, of course, all those extra tax dollars cause the ratio of debt/GDP to start dropping, in which case I advocate a tax rate cut in conjunction with increased borrowing as necessary to keep the debt/GDP ratio relatively constant.

Lastly, I’m in favor of eliminating waste that can be isolated. Wasted hot air is isolatable, and can therefore be eliminated with no downside. There is no contradiction.

Actually, as a constitutional republic, the duty of the government is to uphold the constitution. There is nothing in the constitution about educating people. If government truly operated by consent of the people, the war in Iraq would be over by now and our borders would be secure against illegal immigration. I doubt many people believe that government operates by consent of the people.

“Wasted hot air is isolatable, and can therefore be eliminated with no downside.” Yipes! I’m not sure if I get your drift, but it sounds like you want to isolate and eliminate ME. I take back everything I said. Government is good. I want more government.

Now that I think about it, haven’t you made the perfect argument for eliminating the deficit? If government operates by consent of the people, and people believe the deficit is too high, then is it not the duty of the government to eliminate the deficit and balance the budget?

Upholding the constitution would include defense, i.e., national security, equal application of the law (justice), and promoting the general welfare (under which education and infrastructure would be close to the top of the priority list).

Government (the republican form) operates by the consent of the people through their representatives. There's usually a time lag between "the people" changing their minds vs govt changing its actions, which is the nature of the republican form -- a good thing, according to Federalist #10 (by Madison), in part because it puts a damper on the tyranny of the majority.

To isolate false hot air in a free-speech society means (in my book) exposing it as false, for the purpose of encapsulating it to prevent it from contaminating serious mainstream debate. There will always be fringe crazies who subscribe to such things as "all waste can be eliminated", "the Fed is a secret conspiracy of fat cat bankers", and "911 was an inside job"; but their ideas belong in the same faraway corner as "flat earth", "blue cheese moon", and "the oil companies assassinated JFK" -- but they deserve a smaller audience.

National security and innovation are good. I want more of them, and the government has some responsibility for those.

Where in the constitution does it say the budget must be balanced, let alone define "balance"? I would, of course, settle for my own definition of "fiscal responsibility" -- the only specific definition of which I'm aware. See

Steve, I like your blog and enjoy reading some of the good ideas you have here. I also like your approach - sticking to the evidence.

Perhaps we should agree to use that approach here. Where is the agreement between yourself and the government to provide these services and your signature for that agreement?

In addition, if there is consent, there's no need for force. Since government uses force against citizens to force payment for these services without any prior offer and acceptance of that offer, I submit to you by a matter of simple evidence that the government has no consent.

re: "Government’s *duty* is to produce national security, justice, an educated population, certain types of infrastructure, and a stable currency. It has, by consent of the people, a monopoly on the “production” of those. "


I'm a citizen, and we citizens have turned over certain powers to the government.

It's called a "social contract" -- and you can read about it here:

Our constitution begins with "We the people..."; our founding fathers understood the concept of the social contract, and laid out specifically which powers we the people were assigning to the federal government.

My signature wasn't required; my citizenship began at birth. I am happy with the social contract; but anyone who is not happy with it is free to renounce their citizenship. And anyone who would rather not renounce citizenship, but is unhappy with the social contract's terms is free to petition the government in an attempt to change the terms.

Defense, justice, education, infrastructure, and a stable currency: Government's duties. Most if not all other things: Not government's duties.

“And anyone … unhappy with the social contract's terms is free to petition the government in an attempt to change the terms.”

And there’s the rub: it doesn’t work. According to Gallup, Congress’ approval rating is 20%, a new low. People increasingly realize that Congress operates for the benefit of corporations and special interests but are powerless to do anything about it. Most people want a balanced budget. They want the war to end. Most do not see the need for 737 overseas military bases with more on the way. We do not want our phones tapped. I could go on and on.

Can you not see our point of view? We are horrified of a government that has grown out of control. A powerful elite runs the country according to its agenda, not ours, and extorts money from people by force in the form of taxes. Where is the “social contract” in that? JIMB is correct: it is a system based on force. The US has the highest per capita prison population of any country in the world. So many intrusive laws constrain and regulate our lives that we are all unindicted felons. Government can selectively prosecute those it wishes. The idealized fair and just government you describe is a phantasm that exists only in your head.

Excuse me, where did I ever say I thought our government was fair and just? I do happen to think it is one of the least unfair and least unjust governments ever devised, but there's still a long way to go before, for example, equal justice and equal opportunity become reality.

It's easier to criticize than to create. Nonetheless, now that it's obvious you think the "social contract" is a sham, let's hear your proposed solution to our imperfect system... and not just your vision of the improved end state, but also your opinion of the proper path to get there from where we are today.

"According to Gallup, Congress’ approval rating is 20%, a new low."

So...Vote them out.

"People increasingly realize that Congress operates for the benefit of corporations and special interests but are powerless to do anything about it."

Oh really? Start a new party. Write your senator and congressman. Stop whining and take action.

"They want the war to end."

Which one? If you mean Iraq I suggest most people want it to end in victory. If the broader war on terror, well, you'll have to take that up with the terrorists.

"We do not want our phones tapped."

Is your phone tapped? Far as I know mine isn't and frankly I'm not worried if it is. That's because I don't use words like "Allah" and "jihad".

I’m just expressing my opinion. I don’t enjoy arguing. I don’t want to argue with anyone.

As for the solution . . . sometimes there are no solutions -- only outcomes. I expect government to continue on as it has, accreting power, eroding personal freedoms, waging endless war. Social unrest will grow as the divide between rich and poor grows. Nothing you or I can do about it. All empires are swept into the dustbin of history eventually.

I cited Congress’ low approval rating precisely to show that we cannot, in fact, vote them out. The system is broken and corrupt. That’s why people are frustrated with government.

Steve - Thanks for the response.

As a sceptical optimist, I'd have to disagree with the idea (lack of evidence) that there is a social contract.


As a positive step, I encourage you (and Mr. Higgs) to join and contribute to www.campaignforliberty. I have done both. I believe rolling back the federal government is what we need - especially for my children (I don't know if you have any). Active people that restrain the growth of government and provide entrepreneurial solutions make this country great.

Thanks again for the blog, Steve.

Best wishes,

-- Jim.

in4mia: Do you prefer to hide behind internet anonymity?

JIMB: Thanks, but the mid-90s saw bipartisan support for the oversimplified mantra "reducing the size of government" -- the Republicans called for it repeatedly, and Clinton plus Dems at last obliged: national security spending was reduced to its lowest share of GDP since pre-WW2, again, with bipartisan support. ("National security" = intelligence + diplomacy + military force potential). Cutting back on all that helped us achieve the golden calf: the surplus. (For a few years, anyway.)

The smallest possible government is no government: anarchy. No social contract, as Rousseau and our founding fathers defined that term. There are some who advocate anarchy, but that faction does not include me. I'm with Adam Smith: government is for providing defense, justice, education, infrastructure, and a stable currency.

"The smallest possible government is no government: anarchy...There are some who advocate anarchy, but that faction does not include me.."

Gula, pg 59:
THE STRAW MAN When you take something your opponent has said,
exaggerate or distort it, and then attack what you have exaggerated or distorted, you have created a straw man.

Steve "in4mia: Do you prefer to hide behind internet anonymity?"

Are you asking this because I use a nickname or because I only emailed you just now? If you were wondering why I haven't sent you an email until just now, we all only have 24 hours in a day and we have to prioritize our day. :-)

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