It’s election time (isn’t it always?), and the political mantra in our district is “limited government.” I’ve been wondering about that. What is limited government? A corollary to that is “get government out of the way,” which is not quite as bad as “government is the problem” but it is from the same song book. In other news, Target Stores got a little publicity for helping finance a Minnesota television ad favoring the Republican candidate for governor with the tag line “get government out of the way.” One would presume that after eight years of a conservative governor it would have been moved out of the way of corporate Target, but apparently not far enough. How far is far enough?
Limited government that is out of the way, that’s what we want? When I look across the political landscape there is only one candidate who appears to be honest and articulate about what he means by limited government that is out of the way. Libertarian Rand Paul is very up front about that. I agree with almost nothing he has to offer, but I deeply respect his honesty about it and his ability to clearly articulate what he means by it.
What I observe is that most others who favor a limited government that is out of the way really support an activist government that will do everything it can to pave the way for corporations to engage in economic activity with as much regard for corporate gain and as little regard for the public welfare as possible. That agenda is sold as a boon to individuals and small businesses. It’s just another marketing ploy but it works well and is widely believed. A valued side bet has to do with privatization, which is sold as returning to the private sector work that has been taken over by the public sector. What privatization is actually about is to siphon off tax dollars to the private sector to do work for and on behalf of the government. That is not always a bad thing, but we have seen how easily it is abused by corporate interests that do less work (or unneeded work) at higher costs and lower quality. Only the Rand Paul’s of the world really want limited government and are clear about what they mean by that.
The point is that individual greed can always be counted on to undermine the public interest if given the chance. Therefore, the question should not be about limited government, but about effective government, regardless of size, that is capable of striking the right balance for current and anticipated conditions that both optimizes individual and corporate freedom to act while protecting the public interest. That, of course, brings us to the next question: What is the public interest? We will take that up anon, but a quick review of previous posts will point in the right direction.