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big-govt compassion

Following up on “Socialism Is Concentrated Power“, check out “Because government is a force multiplier for evil, a vote for the small government candidate is a vote for good” from the Bookworm Room. I’m four days late making my 2nd anniversary post on Sacred Cow Chips, so this is it. I’ll try to keep it brief so I can get it out before bedtime on a school night.

I don’t agree with everything in Bookworm’s analysis, but I certainly agree with the general thrust:

The problem with government is that, as it grows, no matter the original good intentions behind it, it invariably becomes a force multiplier for evil. Thus, once government power passes a certain point, government becomes the equivalent of a bull in a china shop, with its every motion causing massive damage. Incidentally, the china in that shop is always you — the individual.

Bookworm discusses two major forms of force multiplication of evil by the state: money and death. Governments are incredible graft machines and resource wastrels. More tragically, the many genocidal acts over the course of history would not have been possible without government as the machine of authority and “legitimization”. Fear of the government’s police power may ultimately spur normal people to participate in “banal” acts of unspeakable evil. And here, Bookworm points out a few ironies about the “nice” people who root for state control:

A compassionate government will talk itself into euthanizing people who, because they are very old or sick, use up more than their fair share of medical care. This has already happened under England’s National Health Service, which kills off old, sick people, and whose ‘ethicists’ advocate even more killings (out of ‘compassion’ of course).

A compassionate government dedicated to efficiency will convince itself that individuals or organizations that stand in the way of efficiency must be controlled and, if they won’t be controlled, must be destroyed. After all, without mandated efficiency, people will suffer.

A compassionate government dedicated to “fairness” (usually thought of in economic terms), will quickly conclude that it’s entirely unfair that one distinct group or another is wealthier or healthier than the rest. That group must be brought to heel and, failing that, destroyed.

A compassionate government dedicated to national purity will naturally have to kill the impure within its borders and, once that’s done, it would be even more compassionate to extend that purity throughout the world.

Even the most murderous theocracies will argue that compassion guides them. Their tortures, executions, and Holy Wars are meant to bring people closer to God, which is the highest form of human existence. Isn’t that a nice, compassionate thing to do?

Bookworm offers praise to the genius of the U.S. founding fathers in crafting governing principles designed to limit government power. And Bookworm recognizes Senator Ted Cruz as the only major party candidate to consistently stand for small government and constitutional principles. I’m not all in on this endorsement, as Cruz has taken stands and aligned himself with individuals not supportive of civil liberties such as gay marriage. However, in many important ways, Cruz recognizes the danger of government power. Bookworm might have mentioned Gary Johnson, the likely Libertarian Party nominee, as the most consistent critic of big government among the names likely to appear on presidential ballots in the fall.

Some might object to Bookworm’s discussion of the many failed experiments with government domination of society by noting that he never mentions the alleged success of European social democracies, particularly the Nordic states. Sweden and Denmark are the most cited examples. However, Europe is not an economic success story, with median incomes comparable to states with the lowest incomes in the U.S. Moreover, the “Nordic Nirvana” is something of a myth. In “How Laissez-Faire Made Sweden Rich“, Johan Norberg gives a detailed history of Sweden’s political and economic evolution:

It was not socialist policies that turned Sweden into one of the world’s richest countries. When Sweden got rich, it had one of the most open and deregulated economies in the world, and taxes were lower than in the United States and most other western countries. The Social Democrats kept most of those policies intact until the 1970s, when they thought that those excellent foundations—unprecedented wealth, a strong work ethic, an educated work force, world-class exports industries, and a relatively honest bureaucracy—were so stable that the government could tax and spend and build a generous cradle-to-grave welfare state on them.

They couldn’t. At least not without costs. Because that welfare state began to erode the conditions that had made the model viable in the first place. And the fourth richest country became the 14th richest within three decades.

Fortunately, for more than 70 years, Western Europe has avoided the kind of dire, genocidal consequences that often flow from a dominant state, but Europe has stagnated economically. Hazards await them as a growing and increasingly diverse population competes for diminished economic gains; government control is a dead-weight on their prospects. I hope we can avoid that fate in the U.S., though we’re already far down the road. Like the Bookworm says, vote for small government!