Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shrunken Government

Eric Lotke has a very perceptive op-ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times. In it he correctly points to the natural outcome of reducing government: no government service at all.

Last week, consumers were worried about salmonella in their fresh tomatoes. Before that, it was E. coli in their spinach. Something is wrong. Eating a salad is not supposed to be a high-risk activity

But the problem isn't so much farmers. It's ideology. Historian Rick Perlstein, author of "Nixonland," calls it "E. coli conservatism" -- government shrinks and shrinks until people get sick.

"Government is not the solution to our problem," President Reagan famously declared in his inaugural address in 1981. "Government is the problem."

Many conservatives have gone far beyond that. Their traditional embrace of small government has been replaced with outright disdain for it. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, doesn't just want to shrink government. To use his words, he wants government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Once in power, E. coli conservatives shrink government by hamstringing it. They weaken rules that protect people, slash the budgets of consumer agencies and appoint industry friends to oversight commissions. The result: Some government regulatory agencies that we trust to protect us have shrunk to insignificance or serve private industry rather than consumers.
[Emphasis added]

And it's not just the FDA's failure or inability to properly inspect produce, Mr. Lotke points out. In a global economy run by mega-corps, all sorts of problems crop up. In just the last few years we've seen how deregulation has given us pet food with melamine in it, rolling blackouts in California as Enron tilted the field, lead in children's toys, a mortgage crisis that keeps on growing, and surging commodities markets. This is what bath-tub-sized government leads to.

Enough. Instead of talking about the size of government, we should be debating how to make our government more effective. How many more people have to get sick before the government reclaims its mission to serve the people?

I don't know how many more people, Mr. Lotke, but I can tell you that it will take at least another 184 days.

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Blogger Unknown said...

You seem to think more government will protect us from things without consequences. But the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened in a country with very big government in a government-run operation. The biggest polluter in the US is the government (mainly through the military).

The size of government in the US is not smaller than in Reagan's day. It is much larger. Look at spending increases by president at:

It sounds like you trust politicians to spend your money (and my money). But Democrat or Republican, they spend it on more soldiers, more cops, and more prisons. Your blog just complained about this in a way:

If they dump the exclusionary rule, that's a decision in favor of more government power to regulate.

4:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chernobyl took placein the world's largest and most complete monopoly: it doesn't matter whether it was a government or corporate monopoly, there was no outside accountability that would discover design and operational flaws and take steps to correct them. The pressure on the "hands on" people was send in nice, happy reports saying "all is well" rather than whistleblowing or otherwise failing to "get with the program".

And yes, the numbers you cire show the government spending more than it did. However, that doesn't contradict anything Diane actually said. The point is that when "anti-big-govenment" Republicans are in power and control that government, they don't actually shrink it. They just do a worse job (i.e., they waste even more of your money) and blame all problems on (who else?) the Democrats.

5:13 AM  

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