What Is Wrong With You That You Don’t Trust Your Government?

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

The latest display of naivete from Ezra Klein:

What we’re seeing here is not merely distrust in the House health-care reform bill. It’s distrust in the political system. A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the “institutional checks” that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship. Similarly, the relationship between the protesters and the government is not healthy. The protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim, which means that there is no answer for it, either. That claim is not about what is in this bill, or what government has done in Medicare and Medicaid and the VA. It is about what a certain slice of Americans think their government — and by extension, their fellow citizens — capable of.

My friend Will Wilkinson cleans up Ezra’s mess.

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53 Responses to “What Is Wrong With You That You Don’t Trust Your Government?”

  1. #1 |  Billy Beck | 

    “I see you are also giving away your ‘tell’ with your choice of racial epithet, ‘mongrel’.”

    I don’t know anything about your race, and the reference is to your intellect.

    Things don’t go very well for you when you just make shit up out of thin-air, do they?

  2. #2 |  supercat | 

    //I see lots of things that government does well every day: streets and bridges, electronic infrastructure, utilities, my mother’s health care, and yes, the post office.//

    There are many factors which make government less efficient than the private sector. There are a few factors which, in a few isolated instances, make it more efficient. Four such factors which favor government provision of a few resources, and the way in which they favor government provision of most roads are:

    -1- Will the resource be scarce or plentiful? In most places at most times, road capacity is plentiful. Anyone and everyone can drive most roads essentially as often as they want without interfering with anyone else’s ability to do likewise. Some roads do hit capacity limits at certain times, but the vast majority of roads in this country are utilized to only a small fraction of capacity. There’s no need for the government to worry about setting an optimum “price” for the use of most roads, since the marginal cost of usage is essentially zero.

    -2- Is it practical to charge for resource consumption? While it may be practical to have a few privately-owned toll roads, having most roads be privately owned and billed would make travel difficult. Technologies are improving to the point that billing might almost be practical, but having to consult a computer when planning practically any trip so as to know how much various routes would cost would be a severe impediment to travel.

    -3- Will the resources generate positive network externalities exist that substantially outweigh negative ones? Roads make other roads more useful, thus generating a positive network externality. In some cases, the positive externalities may cause the total benefit to society from building something to substantially exceed the cost, even if it would be impossible for a private entity that built the thing to receive sufficient benefit to make the effort worthwhile.

    -4- Can a private entity effectively provide the resource? Effective construction of roads often requires that land be seized via eminent domain. Governments can do this, but private entities cannot (at least not legitimately).

    All four of those factors favor the government provision of most roads. None of them favor the government provision of, e.g. most health care.

  3. #3 |  Baker’s dozen link dump | 

    […] this week, I had two people on my Facebook friends post a link to a Whitehouse.gov page to dispel rumors about the socialized health care plan the Obama Administration is (was?) pushing for.  That might have been one of the lulziest things […]