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 |  Henry Bowman | 

    I think that anyone who uses the word unthinkable to describe anything is a rather unimaginative person.

  2. #2 |  Balloon Maker | 

    In a healthy relationship, one partner doesn’t steal money from the other and claim it’s for the other’s own good.

  3. #3 |  Michael Pack | 

    Let’s see,many in office are promising to provide health care at a ‘affordable ‘ price,to every one that will cover almost every thing.Oh,and your insurance payment will not be affected by how much care you need.Sounds insane to me.

  4. #4 |  Fluffy | 

    Will only scratches the surface of the absurdity of Klein’s argument.

    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.

    Basically Klein here comes out in favor of the theoretical superiority of Louis XIV’s system of absolute monarchy over our inferior, unhealthy system of republican government with institutional checks and balances.

    And even with the large number of checks and balances we have, with our governing institutions set against each other in opposition, our government was still capable of:

    1. Slavery
    2. Jim Crow
    3. Exterminating the Indians
    4. The Spanish-American war and resulting anti-Filipino atrocities, including concentration camps
    5. Atrocities against the native peoples of Hawaii
    6. The internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War

    …off the top of my head.

    You would have to be a first class jackass and completely and utterly ignorant of the entire history of the world prior to, say, Watergate to make Klein’s argument. What an asshole.

  5. #5 |  skunky | 

    Um, Fluffy, I’m pretty sure “the people” insituted slavery, and government enabled it. It was a pure expression of property rights. It was brutal free-market capitalism. And it was insituted pre-checks and balances. You’d have to be a first-class jackass to think that the US Gov’t enslaved black folks. That was the status quo.

    And I’m pretty sure none of the other bad acts you mention were done in the name instituting health care reform. This is a false equivalency argument.

  6. #6 |  Bob | 

    Let’s see, On one hand, you have people far too trusting of government.

    On the other hand, you have people that think ALL people are not only capable of taking care of themselves, but are trustworthy and honest.

    I’ll pass. Give me the compromise solution that noone loves, but everyone can actually live with.

  7. #7 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The fight over health care, while seeming to be qualitative, is really nothing more than the latest incarnation of the fight between Republicans and Democrats who would be more than happy to sacrifice the country whole if they thought it would gain them even the smallest advantage over the other party.

    How this is not recognizable even to the respective party members is beyond comprehension, taking the idea of burying your head in the sand to an entirely new orbit.

    We may argue pros and cons here, but that’s not what’s going on in the media or among the population. The public is merely picking a team and doing along. Health care reform is really just the latest tactic designed to keep public attention off the real issue of how government is distributing to their buddies the earnings of future generations (ie: dividing up the loot). It’s the spoils of winning Congress and the White House. Bush did it, and now it’s the democrats’ turn. It’s what pirates do when they capture a prize merchant vessel.

    You can tell yourself all day long that government is acting in good faith with health care (or any other program for that matter), but citizens are at the bottom of the list of priorities in government.

    The truth hurts. That’s why people spend their entire lives avoiding it.

  8. #8 |  Billy Beck | 

    “Balloon Maker” wins the thread, with the obvious exposition of Klein’s fantastic analogy.

    That kid is fucking delusional.

  9. #9 |  Billy Beck | 

    “I’m pretty sure “the people” insituted slavery, and government enabled it. It was a pure expression of property rights.”

    Bullshit. There is no such thing as a “right” to own other people, and if you don’t know that, then you have no business using the term.

    Idiot. Shut up.

  10. #10 |  Fluffy | 

    Skunky:

    You are a moron.

    Klein looks at the powers the federal government will be assuming under the proposed health care reform and assumes they will be used in good faith.

    Opponents of health care reform look at the powers the federal government will be assuming under the proposed health care reform and assume they will be used in bad faith.

    Klein then whines, “Wah! You people are mean! How dare you believe that our government will use its powers in bad faith?”

    I have listed a number of ways in which our government has used its powers in bad faith. The list I have already provided is sufficient to demonstrate the absurdity of Klein’s argument.

    Now you want to whine, “Wah! None of those examples involve health care!” That is not a useful counterargument, since the powers we’re talking about would be novel for our government. Obviously I can’t provide examples where powers were used in bad faith when our government has never had these powers before.

    In any event, your statement that “the people” instituted slavery is false. The institutional, legislative, and common law history of slavery in the British Empire is well documented. Slavery was essentially extinct in western Europe in the late middle ages and was deliberately revived as a matter of imperial policy [by any nnumber of governments] during the Age of Discovery.

  11. #11 |  Mattocracy | 

    Blind trust in government is the same thing as blind trust in religion. I guess the idea is if you don’t blind trust and faith in your team, then the bad guys will win. I’m sure that if McCain was in the white house with a GOP dominated congress, Klein would be all about dissent.

  12. #12 |  Big Chief | 

    I have to say that I have found this whole “debate” over health care pretty amazing. I don’t recall seeing a national discussion this weird before. The discussions prior to the Patriot Act and the Iraq invasion were sensible in comparison. So rather than join in on the idiocy I have a request. As you on the left (and right) try to make your utopian dreams a reality, just let me opt out. If your plan can’t work without my forced involvement then you should accept that it must be terribly flawed and drop it.

  13. #13 |  skunky | 

    I am aware that there is no “right” to own people, you fools. Just as there is no “right” to own private property. These are all self-actualized rights, and at the time the US Constitution was created, many states enforced the “rights” of some people to own others.

    Nice retort, Fluffy. You didn’t address a single point I made. The powers we’re giving government aren’t novel at all. Medicare, Medicaid are pretty good examples of government involvement in health care. Moron indeed.

    I like how I provide a counter-point and get called names. Real open discussion you’ve got here.

  14. #14 |  WholeFoods | 

    Where do you work, skunky? I’m going to organize a boycott against your employer because I don’t like what you’ve said.

  15. #15 |  Michael Chaney | 

    The protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim…

    Nah, no evidence at all. Well, as long as we ignore the entirety of recorded history…

  16. #16 |  Constant Reader | 

    Clearly, things would be better if we just gave Ezra Klein a Taser and authorized him — without fear of oversight, review, or liability — to administer “pain compliance” to those unfortunate souls who have not yet seen the light regarding the state’s charitable benevolence. He would, of course, be motivated only by the highest concern for the public good. And whenever a beneficiary of this policy mistakenly complains that the use of force again him was unnecessary and perverse, Mr. Klein, and his superiors, would mournfully note that while the administration of pain compliance is always unfortunate, and therefore a last resort, in this case Mr. Klein faced a “tense” and “rapidly-evolving” situation. You see, he couldn’t be entirely sure that the tasering’s beneficiary agreed with him about health policy. There existed some small chance, however remote, that the beneficiary actually disagreed with Mr. Klein. It was therefore regretfully necessary for Mr. Klein to shock him into submission, repeatedly, until he admitted that the public option is, in fact, a good idea. Mr. Klein risks exposure to objectionable views every day, and he’s gained considerable expertise in diffusing situations where people disagree with him; it’s not for us, after the fact, to Monday-morning quarterback his on-the-spot, heat-of-the-moment decisions. In fact, you’re lucky that there’ someone out there like Mr. Klein who’s willing to risk electrocuting you for your own good.

    (A note, to the trolls, related to this particular bit of satire: I think much of the current system is just crazy, and really ought to be thrown out as soon as possible, but other than that I don’t have firm views on the most desirable reforms and I’ve heard ideas from the right and left that strike me as being quite sensible. Still, it’s pretty clear that a bunch of people don’t trust the government, the Democratic party, or health care activists’ motives, and clearer still that, for a variety of reasons, an even larger group doesn’t want any reform at all. I had thought that in a liberal, democratic state, like ours, it is incumbent on elected officials, and powerful private actors like Ezra Klein, to earn the people’s trust and persuade the public that a particular reform is desirable. Apparently, I was mistaken, and deference to Mr. Klein’s horrifyingly saccharine sense of public-spiritedness is in order.)

  17. #17 |  dsmallwood | 

    i thought checks and balances were intrinsic to the government? it seems like a fair minded helpful government wouldn’t be afraid of checks …

    and the line from Klien, “protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim”

    that is madness. tell those tuskeegee guys, or the army vets who spectated nukular bomb blasts, or guys wrongfully detained in the war on terror, or the

  18. #18 |  nwerner | 

    What the fuck has the political system done lately that ought to make me trust it?

    “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.”

    See: Iraq among other items.

    Fuck off, Ezra.

  19. #19 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    It is about what a certain slice of Americans think their government — and by extension, their fellow citizens — capable of.

    You’d think Ezra Klein would be sufficiently educated to have heard of the Milgram Experiment or the Stanford Prison Experiment at some point.

  20. #20 |  karl | 

    There is a difference between the atrocities listed by Fluffy (#4) and domestic programs like Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, etc. The excesses (to use a polite word) of domestic law “enforcement” also falls into a different category — they are also concerned with projecting the physical power of the state into civil life. Where is the evidence of overbearing police power as a result of social welfare programs? And please don’t give me the usual ideological rant about all state power being a physical threat; I want an instance of a social welfare program that actually put people in prisons or endangered their lives and physical safety in ways similar to Fluffy’s list.

    This is a good faith question, please try to convince me with facts.

  21. #21 |  Fluffy | 

    Karl:

    Many western societies at the turn of the 20th century experimented with eugenics.

    These eugenics campaigns were proposed and administered as public health measures.

    And some of the most culturally genocidal campaigns against Native Americans were conceived as social welfare schemes, and regarded that way as they were put into practice.

    Our treatment of the mentally ill back during the days of involuntary commitment doesn’t really win any prizes for humaneness, either. And that was definitely entirely “medical”.

  22. #22 |  Aresen | 

    karl. Last year, state authorities seized over 100 children at gunpoint from a polygamous sect. No evidence was produced that the children were abused. This was done in the name of social welfare and primarily because the sect was socially disapproved.

    The children were taken from their families and subjected to stress. If their parents had resisted forcefully, the full power of the state – including lethal force – would have been used to take the children. This would have endangered the children and their parents.

    The children were “institutionalized” (which is nothing more than a euphemism for “imprisoned”).

    One does not have to like this sect to realize that they were wronged. It was the state, using the powers granted in the name of “social welfare”, that endangered and imprisoned thes people.

    This is but one incident. But it clearly shows that, so long as power exists, it will be abused by some. It is this potential for abuse that makes libertarians distrust all state power.

  23. #23 |  Eric H | 

    karl,
    How about The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, which could
    “save 7,000 American lives a year”, and which is primarily opposed on the grounds that it could lead to exploitation of the poor. Which is silly, by the way.

  24. #24 |  Mike T | 

    I want an instance of a social welfare program that actually put people in prisons or endangered their lives and physical safety in ways similar to Fluffy’s list.

    The 1996 welfare reforms bulked up the enforcement of child support, which combined with poor/down-on-their-luck men resulted in a lot of men serving jail time over the last decade.

  25. #25 |  Eric H | 

    Damn, my link didn’t work. The 7,000 lives quote should lead to this article: http://www.reason.com/news/show/130595.html

  26. #26 |  Chuchundra | 

    Look, there’s reasonable suspicion of government and then there’s batshit insanity.

    If your local school district wants to buy a couple more school buses so that they can accommodate more kids, there are a lot of reasonable objections you might raise. You could say that the district can’t afford it or that you don’t want an increase in your school taxes to pay for it. You might argue that more kids should walk to school which would obviate the need for more buses. You could even state that the Superintendent’s brother-in-law owns the bus company and that the whole deal stinks to high heaven.

    These are all reasonable arguments that reasonable people can discuss and engage on. They may be right. They might be wrong. But they’re not crazy.

    On the other hand, if you stand up in the PTA meeting and accuse the school board of wanting to buy more school buses so that it will be easier to transport all the children to a FEMA prison camp, then you have crossed over the line. You can no longer be reasoned with or engaged with. You are crazy as a shithouse rat.

    That’s where we are now in the health care debate.

  27. #27 |  Eric H | 

    Double damn. That should read:

    The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, the repeal of which could “save 7,000 American lives a year”

  28. #28 |  Aresen | 

    Chuchundra # 26

    Analogy fail.

    This isn’t “buy a couple of more buses”.

    This is “Everybody on the bus. Shut up and let us drive.”

  29. #29 |  karl | 

    Fluffy: Thanks for the response. In the current argument I tend to see eugenics and the mistreatment of the mentally ill more as bad medicine than a social welfare program, but your point is still well-made. Better still is your reference to programs which helped destroy Native American communities by separating families — this was an attempt to “give” the younger generations something specific (civilization!). Similar programs meant to integrate nonwhite children into the white mainstream were also implemented for the advancement of Mexican children here in the Southwest early in the last century. Sigh.

    Aresen: Again, thanks. These raids on nonconformist communities are really about police power; I don’t see how they can be seen as a way of improving the lives of the population-at-large. But we are on the same page in opposing them — and the use of “it’s for the children” as a rationale for every harebrained scheme or power-play that comes down the pike.

    Eric H: Funny, but I see more similarity between the opposition to various health-care reform measures and the opposition to the Act’s repeal (which I tend to support). The difference, of course, is the former is worried about the government running amok and the latter is worried about the free market running amok.

    Mike T: You said (wrote) it yourself, “bulked up the enforcement” — this wasn’t a new aid-to-everyone program, just another expansion of police power. I know this sounds like nitpicking (and maybe it is) to most who read this, but what is often lacking in debates like this is a meaningful, and agreed upon, definition of terms. These definitions, of course, are mine — your mileage may vary.

    Thanks for the answers, they all brought up good points.

  30. #30 |  Chuchundra | 

    Aresen, you miss the point. Whether the bill is about buying a school bus or changes to our health insurance system is beside the point. The point is that there’s a difference between a reasonable objection to public policy initiatives (“the bill costs too much”, “it’s impractical”, “it will harm small businesses”, etc) and a batshit insane one (“they’re planning to euthanize old people to save money”, “we’ll become a socialist country and have to wait on line for toilet paper”).

    The former can be argued and engaged with. The latter can not be.

  31. #31 |  Nick T. | 

    karl do you realize you wrote these two things:

    “Where is the evidence of overbearing police power as a result of social welfare programs?”

    and then:

    “These raids on nonconformist communities are really about *police power*; I don’t see how they can be seen as a way of improving the lives of the population-at-large.”????

    What are you even talking about??? By implication you are defining social welfare programs exclusively as programs which “improving the lives of the population-at-large.” This definition is absurd and borders on dishonest. Moreover you asked for examples of abusive “police powers” (not sure you know what that term really means) and were unquestionably provided a effectuation of a social welfare program (it’s a program that authorizes the government to take custody of children in the interest of making sure they are safe) that was harmful and abusive and then you dismiss it as being more of a “police power?”

    And you are going beyond nitpicking you are defying the terms of your own argument. Who cares whether the government action is to stop the gov or the free market from running amok, either one was designed to make people healtheir/safer and it is harmful. The child-support law is a blatantly obvious social welfare program, the natural extension (or as you said “result”) of violating such a program is often, as in this case, that the police will use force against you to jail you.

    The biggest problem in *this* debate is that your question was answered, by any reasonably definition of the terms, and you have drawn out meaningless distinction and self-contradictions.

  32. #32 |  karl | 

    Nick T: Thanks for a good-faith critique. True, I’ve been defining “social welfare programs” as society-wide entitlements to differentiate them from programs that are targeted at specific populations. The reason is that Balko’s post referred to the health-care debate, which fits that bill (or offers a bill that fits — sorry). Cases of saving children from cults or even from their own culture, stray from the original debate: where’s the entitlement?.

    Likewise, child-support statutes are not social welfare programs, they represent the criminalization of what was formerly civil law, the offenders are committing crimes by not obeying court orders — the analogy to social security and medicare falls short in this case; your argument might be better served by citing mandatory auto insurance purchases by the various states, which does include penalties for noncompliance (I’m against it, but either way, no one is suggesting penalizing those who don’t have health insurance — they’re being penalized now).

    So yes, I am defining the terms of my own argument, but only because no one else has bothered to define these terms before commenting on them. However, considering the libertarian impulse of Balko’s readers, I’m surprised that no one has attacked rural electrification, the Clean Water Act, and other widespread attempts to better the lives of the population-at-large.

  33. #33 |  Billy Beck | 

    “…many states enforced the ‘rights’ of some people to own others.”

    There is a reason why you put that word in quotes like that: it’s because you know that there is no such right. You’re not only an idiot, but you’re a terrible liar: you can’t resist giving away the tell.

    Shut the fuck up. Filthy mongrel.

  34. #34 |  thomasblair | 

    I think this is exactly correct. There is no healthy relationship between me and that revolving group of people who claim the moral right to steal from me.

    To me, it’s all about distrust.

  35. #35 |  Nick T | 

    karl,

    Are you effing with me? So now social welfare programs are about entitlements and only then can they be “social welfare programs?” I call you out for drawing meaningless, nit-picky distinctions and you just come up with smaller and meaningless-er ones!?

    The point is this: many times in the past the government has created programs designed to help people, pure and simple. The programs were designed to make people safer, healthier, give them more access to necessities, keep them from being exploited etc. Many (if not every) times those programs were effected in such a way as to be harmful, oppressive, destructive, intrusive or just stupid. That is the point, it’s a very simple one. And from that point one can draw the reasonable conclusion (in the context of critiquing what Klein wrote) that the government will eff this well-intentioned program up as well and bring hell down on many of its citizens.

    Your distinctions are meaningless, basically by definition, and you have implicitly defined the terms in such a way as to make them meaningless within this debate, because when you draw them you fail to connect them to any reason as to why that distinction means that program X was of course rather likely to end in a bunch of harm and destruction but this gigantic healthcare reform bill doesn’t pose similar risks.

    In a nutshell: the fed fucks up (conservatively) 80% of everything it touches in ways that seriously harm citizens, why would someone “trust” that this new massive program will be any different.

  36. #36 |  Dakota | 

    Karl,

    Agricultural Adjustment Act, people starved while Roosevelt slaughtered livestock, burned cotton, and paid farmers not to grow food.

  37. #37 |  A Matter Of Trust « Around The Sphere | 

    […] Radley Balko […]

  38. #38 |  Peter Forrester | 

    Maybe we just need an enlightened monarch? Oh, we have one!

  39. #39 |  karl | 

    Dakota: Good call; one of the best examples of well-intentioned-but-ill-conceived policy. Thanks.

    On a larger note, no liberal disagrees with the notion that laws, regulations, and policies often have adverse consequences. What separates them from libertarians (among other things) is that we also believe that NOT ALL laws, regulations, and policies inevitably end up with adverse consequences.

    Nick T: This is why I try to make these distinctions that you find so weaselly. I prefer comparing apples to apples, so I look for similar circumstance when coming to a policy decision. That’s why I added the word “entitlements,” I thought that the type of program I was referring to was obvious — it wasn’t, so I clarified. My mistake in not being specific enough from the beginning.

    If I read you correctly, you seem to be saying that any attempt to better the lives of others leads to failure or oppression. Black-and-white thinking makes for easy opinions. If the government really did screw up 80% of what it touches, we’d be living in a Stalinist state. Do you really believe everything you write?

  40. #40 |  Pablo | 

    Karl–check out Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927). Holmes’ famous quote–“”Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

    One of the most shameful court decisions, right up there with Dred Scot, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu, and Bowers.

  41. #41 |  Pablo | 

    Karl–also I forgot to mention the whole USDA food pyramid and nutrition guidelines, which determine the food provided to everyone who is fed by any institution that received federal funds (eg anyone in the military, federal custody, any public school). In other words they get a diet loaded with cheap carbs (esp. cheap HFCS due to the glut of subsidized corn) which run up insulin and triglyceride levels, with all the havoc that follows. The federal government’s attempt to tell people how to eat in a healthy fashion has been a disaster, and IMHO has contributed to the higher levels of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, we see today. Probably cancer and Alzheimer’s too.

  42. #42 |  skunky | 

    Pablo:

    “The federal government’s attempt to tell people how to eat in a healthy fashion has been a disaster, and IMHO has contributed to the higher levels of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, we see today. Probably cancer and Alzheimer’s too.”

    Make conjecture much? Do you have any evidence for this or are you just talking out of your ass?

  43. #43 |  skunky | 

    Pablo:

    “Karl–check out Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927). Holmes’ famous quote–””Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

    One of the most shameful court decisions, right up there with Dred Scot, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu, and Bowers.”

    You’re now making an argument AGAINST checks and balances, since these are all from the people (i.e. SCOTUS) who should be checking!

  44. #44 |  Pablo | 

    #42–Lots of evidence in fact–read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, or just read the studies in his bibliography. It’s an exhaustively researched and thoroughly footnoted history of nutritional science, or what has passed for it. In a nutshell it is clear that high carbs raise insulin, insulin promotes fat storage, worn out pancreas = diabetes.

  45. #45 |  Nick T | 

    “If the government really did screw up 80% of what it touches, we’d be living in a Stalinist state.”

    This is of course not true. Why don’t we play this game where you name something the fed does well, and see how quickly you get shot down. It’s an incredibly fun game. And when you name something I won’t nit-pick it to oblivion by saying “well, that was really about free-market entitlement things that did not benefit more than 99% of the population.”

    In the context of what Klein wrote, the fed does not screw *everything* up to the tune of actively ruining the lives of its citizens or arbitrarily killing innocent people, but it does do basically nothing well at all.

    Let me preemptively respond to two things you might raise off the bat a) the military. This the fed does seem to do well in that our military is highly advanced, powerful and feared. I would explain this by pointing out that this makes up over half the fed budget and with expenditures so high, results are inevitable, especially in an area where spending is so closely related to quality (ie we can’t just buy a bunch of sick-ass EKG machines and magically have awesome healthcare). However, the military budget is extremely wasteful and pork-filled, and we do not do a great job of looking after veterans or not mismanaging illegal wars. b) The post-office: this seems a somewhat effective fed program, but it is different from all other fed programs in that it is an actual market good (ie people are happy to pay a fee in return for an actual service) and it is completely illegal for a private company to compete at any level, also according to the President, it actually kinda sucks.

  46. #46 |  Pablo | 

    # 43–Karl asked for examples of government health care/welfare programs that actually harmed people. I’d say mandatory sterilization was implemented with the idea of “helping” the population and certainly ended up causing harm.

    Im not arguing against checks and balances. SCOTUS gets it wrong from time to time but that’s why precedent and stare decisis should not be determinative–IOW “judicial activism” is called for from time to time.

  47. #47 |  skunky | 

    Billy Beck:

    “There is a reason why you put that word in quotes like that: it’s because you know that there is no such right. You’re not only an idiot, but you’re a terrible liar: you can’t resist giving away the tell.

    Shut the fuck up. Filthy mongrel.”

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

  48. #48 |  Nick T | 

    Oh and as for this guy:

    “If I read you correctly, you seem to be saying that any attempt to better the lives of others leads to failure or oppression.”

    I am saying that most efforts put forth by the government have failed and have been oppressive. What I am NOT saying is that any attempt inevitably WILL fail, or that the solution is to instead have nothing in its place. But rather I am making an argument (again consider the context of what is being discussed here) that it is downright foolish not to have a healthy degree of skepticism AND that many inherent qualities of government lead it to be poorly run such as politicization and legal corruption.

  49. #49 |  Lefty McFreeStuff | 

    gawd i can’t wait to start soaking up your delicious tax dollars with my many self induced illnesses. NOMMERS bring on the gubmint cheese!

  50. #50 |  karl | 

    Nick T: Good reply in #45, but I still don’t understand the “government doesn’t do anything well” sentiment. 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. Is there room for improvement in all these areas? Yes, of course. Perhaps you see the best as an enemy of the good when you look at public works (or rather “the good as the enemy of the adequate”).

    As to #48, we agree that skepticism is always necessary when considering any public policy. Your degree of skepticism just might be a tad higher than mine.

    Thanks for a civil and engaging discussion. It’s dinnertime.

  51. #51 |  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?

  52. #52 |  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.

  53. #53 |  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 […]

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