Monday, October 19, 2009

Government as Santa

Robert Higgs, to whom I was sent by Marginal Revolution (link on the right), has an interesting discussion with a very interesting conclusion. The discussion is about the difference between diagnosis and prescription: it's one thing to say 'government is too big' and another to know how best to shrink it. In defending himself from those who say his diagnosis is no good because he doesn't have a prescription, he ends with these thoughts on why it is beyond the power of any one person or small group of people to stop the growth of government we've seen over the last 75 years:

"Yet, one thing we do know: Many Americans now believe many things about their government that are false, and they expect much from the government that the rulers cannot provide. ... Until more people come to a more realistic, fact-based understanding of the government and the economy, little hope exists of tearing them away from their quasi-religious attachment to a government they view with misplaced reverence and unrealistic hopes. Lacking a true religious faith yet craving one, many Americans have turned to the state as a substitute god, endowed with the divine omnipotence required to shower the public with something for nothing in every department – free health care, free retirement security, free protection from hazardous consumer products and workplace accidents, free protection from the Islamic maniacs the U.S. government stirs up with its misadventures in the Muslim world, and so forth. If you take the government to be Santa Claus, you naturally want every day to be Christmas; and the bigger the Santa, the bigger his sack of goodies."

I should note, despite my nice graphic, that many conservatives were quite happy to look at Bush II as Santa also. No one gets elected by saying they won't do anything, and only diehard Libertarians vote for someone because they expect that person to do nothing.

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