What role for government?

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Homeownertoo
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What role for government?

Post by Homeownertoo »

Read this before commenting:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/05/01/andrew-coyne-forget-misspending-why-is-the-government-spending-any-money-on-via-rail-canada-post-and-cbc/


Here's a teaser:
Surely it is past time to think about more fundamental reforms. Surely it would be in everyone’s best interests, public employees as much as the public they serve, to start asking those very questions about the role of government we have been avoiding until now, to make choices, to focus government on the things it does best — the things that only government can do. Wouldn’t that make for a more exciting, purpose-filled public service, rather than what it has become: a place of constant confrontation, full of sullen, unmotivated people putting in time before their pensions?
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Urbane
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Re: What role for government?

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This Andrew Coyne column caught my eye the other day as well and an excellent column it is! It's easier for politicians to increase the size and scope of government than it is for them to reduce the size and scope of government. Case in point: ICBC was brought in but when a more conservative government was elected (Social Credit) rather than do away with ICBC they said that they would simply run it more efficiently. Unfortunately we see this same script played out time and time again. We get caught up on looking at possible efficiencies within programs rather than focusing on whether or not those government programs should even exist. The teaser that you posted from the column should serve as a great introduction to the subject of the role of government. Wouldn't it be nice if that happened?
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steven lloyd
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Re: What role for government?

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Urbane wrote:This Andrew Coyne column caught my eye the other day as well and an excellent column it is! It's easier for politicians to increase the size and scope of government than it is for them to reduce the size and scope of government. Case in point: ICBC was brought in but when a more conservative government was elected (Social Credit) rather than do away with ICBC they said that they would simply run it more efficiently. Unfortunately we see this same script played out time and time again. We get caught up on looking at possible efficiencies within programs rather than focusing on whether or not those government programs should even exist.

Those are good points Urbane, and that was the direction I was going in considering Coyne’s article. There were a number of points raised that could be discussed but one point that jumped out was this ...

But the answer is not simply to tighten the screws harder on the whole operation. That’s certainly the Conservatives’ preferred solution: cheaper Big Government, as the economist Stephen Gordon has put it.


... the idea that we can solve our government spending problems by just being more frugal overall (instead of targeted) with our cuts to spending. I think back to Gordon Campbell’s reckless approach to tax and spending cuts that we’ve paid for, and continue to pay for in so many ways (not just the fiscal costs that were incurred with the “What does this do? I don’t know - let’s cut it” approach to fiscal “prudence”, but social costs that have created new and additional fiscal costs). We really do need to start asking the bigger questions of what do we want our government to be doing, and at the same time, what are we comfortable in leaving up to individuals running amok among the collective. As I’ve stated, the problem with libertarianism is it naively presumes everyone is going to be friendly, be fair, share and get along. Ironically, if everyone had some sense of responsibility to the collective, then libertarianism might actually work. I believe there is a critical role for government to play in society but agree we really do need to be taking a harder look at what that includes, and what unique roles might exist in a country as vast and diverse and spread out and in some areas as isolated as Canada includes.

For example, consider this response (to the postal issue) to Coyne’s article ...

But you always seem to skip over the main road block when you bring this argument out. In a country as large and diverse as this, who going to deliver the mail to Inuvik or pond inlet when it isn't profitable? Who's going to run the train to William's lake if...skip that one...already long gone. Who's going to tell our Canadian stories in communities like Hay river or pond inlet if not the CBC? I know some of this can be addressed by market forces and the new technologies, and maybe it should. But little places and little people get left out in the cold along the way too. My community has no way out now, if you can't afford a car or don't want to trade your first born for a air ticket out. Yep. They pulled out passenger service for Greyhound [kept the lucrative parcel part of it of course] from our town. Guess the poor can still cadge a lift or hitch hike if that's legal still. The market only serves itself ...


That last observation is worth considering. Of course, this next perspective, although inflated and based much on rhetoric, is important (and popular) as well ...

In my opinion, Canadians, in substantial numbers, are incapable of asking the fundamental question(s) that Mr.Coyne is posing as why there is so much "government" everywhere in our lives today. Too many Canadians view "government", at any level, as the only solution to their own personal issues, be it health, finance, safety, housing and nutrition. Basically, they discarded their own sense of personal responsibility and embraced socialism's false promise that it/we will take care of you, without asking "how" or "how well". Inevitably, the only possible result is either higher taxes or higher deficits or both.


It’s an inflated perspective to think there are hordes of Canadians who want to be “taken care of” by government and live on welfare. On the other hand, I do not trust the market to solely serve the best interests of us all as a collective, and I believe it is the tendency of some to want to pretend that we are not a collective that presents a very real danger to our overall collective well-being (and by default, the vast majority of individuals). That some people might confuse this type of thinking with socialism will not surprise me but my criticism is directed more toward the self-serving and ever expanding bureaucracy that in today’s world seems to favour neither left-wing nor right-wing ideology but the nature of bureaucracy itself. I see two concerns that need be addressed then: 1) one is the more efficient and accountable execution of service provided, and 2) less services overall provided by government and that is where some interesting discussions and decisions are needed. I’ll be interested to see what some other posters have to say on and add.
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Re: What role for government?

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I don't think there's any need to frame this as a question of Big Government vs. Libertarinism. The latter exists nowhere, only the vague and unrequited hope that we can slow the seemingly relentless expansion of the public sector at the expense of the private, and the ever-shrinking scope for private liberty (not to be confused with the concurrent expansion of private licence), and maybe even reverse it in some small way. The libertarian state is nowhere on or off the horizon and need not be dragged out of oblivion to frighten the children.

And as for the Harper government's approach to shrinking gov't (if only!) by being more frugal, as SL put it, well, that may be its tactic, but I suspect that is only because Canadians seem to have little stomach for anything more comprehensive, especially when the opposition rails at any move in that direction and counters with their several cornucopias of utopias that are just a successful vote of non-confidence away. Only two governments I can recall ever tried to do more along the lines of what Coyne outlines -- Klein, with considerable success, and Bennett in 1983, with rather less success. In both cases, it was in the teeth of a recession and growing budget deficits, and the successes were often reversed in subsequent years. Lessons never learned.

Nevertheless, we are, in my humble opinion, talking about shrinking the scope of government. Not to put too fine a point on it, that means cutting back on what government does and leaving it up to individuals and civic society (Burke's 'platoons') to pick up the slack.

And let's be clear what this means and what we need to embrace. For the person living in an isolated community where the Greyhound bus no longer goes, it means recognizing that it's not the end of the world that gov't didn't pick up the slack and subsidize Greyhound to keep your route open. You want out? It's up to you to find a way, even if that means, horror of horrors, getting a job and buying a car. If you don't want the downside of living in an isloated place, move. As for telling our stories without CBC, who cares anyway. I'll take Hollywood's versions over the CBC's, and I'm hardly alone. If you don't like it, feel free to pay for CBC yourself, but don't demand gov't pick my pocket to keep you happy by spewing out a narrative of Canada and the world that I don't support or want.

Maybe hordes of Canadians don't want to live on welfare, though I'm not sure just how many welfare recipients it takes to qualify as a horde or two, but it is indisputable that many, many (read: far too many) Canadians expect gov't to shepherd them through all the social and economic bumps they encounter along the way. That has to stop if we want to retain some space for private opportunity and achievement.

The collective (meaning government) has already grown too overweening, too voracious, too demanding, too circumscribing, too imposing and too suffocating, no matter how efficient. So let's have less talk about what the collective can, in some utopian imagination, continue to do for us, and recognize what it is doing to us, and what it is preventing us from doing for ourselves as members of Burke's disappearing platoons. It is those necessary platoons, which Alexis de Toqueville so perceptively hailed as the guarantors of American democracy, that the past half-century growth of the collective has decimated by rendering them ineffective and redundant, and today even denounce as threatening to the collective.

See, for example, how the York, Ontario, police forced the cancellation of a public lecture at a synagogue because, as the Muslim officer in charge of diversity told the synagogue's rabbi, the speaker's values did not align with the values of the York regional police. In the brave new Canadian gov't run-collective, if your values don't quite line up with those of the local representatives of the collective, you better keep them to yourself. (The prospective speaker, Pamela Geller,, has another Canadian connection. After learning that Aqsa Parvez, Canada's honor-killing victim, would be dishonored in death as she was in life by being denied a headstone to mark her deliberately unmarked grave, Geller, an American Jew, arranged for the young Muslim woman to be honored with a memorial and grove of trees, including a memorial ceremony, in Jerusalem's Independance Park. Apparently, she couldn't find a closer location in Canada that would take on the 'controversial' memorial. So much for our vaunted 'collective'.)

So it is not just about saving mere money, this project of ours. It is about ensuring Canada remains worth saving by ensuring a plurality of voices, and not just the voice of the official collective, is heard above the din. Gerald Ford was correct when he said "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have." We need to begin unwinding that big government. And the main thing is not to divine where to start, but just to start.

I applaud Steven Harper for deliberately starving the federal government of money, with policies like cutting the GST (even if it is a least destructive form of tax, it had the small merit of being politically feasible) and instituting TFSAs. The next step is to direct gov't departments to meet their budgets by eliminating (not reducing) programs. Only the Tories have even approached that approach. Don't look for a Prime Minister Trudeau Jr. or Prime Minister Mulcair to pick up that torch in any fashion.

More later ...
Last edited by Homeownertoo on May 5th, 2013, 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What role for government?

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Homeownertoo wrote: ..., we are, in my humble opinion, talking about shrinking the scope of government. Not to put too fine a point on it, that means cutting back on what government does ...

Agreed.

Homeownertoo wrote: And let's be clear what this means and what we need to embrace. For the person living in an isolated community where the Greyhound bus no longer goes, it means recognizing that it's not the end of the world that gov't didn't pick up the slack and subsidize Greyhound to keep its route open. You want out? It's up to you to find a way, even if that means, horror of horrors, getting a job and buying a car.

Fair point - except for the implied presumption that people generally choose to be disempowered and survive off the government’s *bleep* (not that there aren’t a few who do). Maybe not so simple to remain in some isolated community with no prospects for employment but the decision to leave and seek better opportunity elsewhere is what some people consider a part of “growing up”.
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Re: What role for government?

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Homeownertoo wrote: So it is not just about saving mere money, this project of ours. It is about ensuring Canada remains worth saving by ensuring a plurality of voices, and not just the voice of the official collective, is heard above the din.

Now there's the real challenge homes (responding to your edit). For the voice of the plurality to be heard above the voice of the "official collective" there first has to be an active, educated and participating plurality. It isn’t just the so-called hordes of welfare bums that have found themselves disempowered, but a good portion of the working population that chooses that condition. The reasons for that lack of participation are no doubt varied and complex but disgust with modern politics at least plays part of a role. I have other tasks to devote some attention to before my work week begins tomorrow but I wanted to put that thought out there.
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Re: What role for government?

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steven lloyd wrote:Now there's the real challenge homes (responding to your edit). For the voice of the plurality to be heard above the voice of the "official collective" there first has to be an active, educated and participating plurality. It isn’t just the so-called hordes of welfare bums that have found themselves disempowered, but a good portion of the working population that chooses that condition. The reasons for that lack of participation are no doubt varied and complex but disgust with modern politics at least plays part of a role. I have other tasks to devote some attention to before my work week begins tomorrow but I wanted to put that thought out there.

I agree entirely. And I am not terribly concerned about hordes of welfare bums. To the extent they exist, they are just people responding to inappropriate policy incentives crafted by people who have little comprehension of the damage they are doing. (And it wasn't actually an edit; I had accidentally posted my musings before finishing them.)

Disgust with politics is an issue. More pertinent, though, is that when gov't grows large, disgust with politics is much more consequential than in an era of limited government, and more likely to arise due to the increased certainty that reform of the beast becomes all but impossible.
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Re: What role for government?

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Homeownertoo wrote: Disgust with politics is an issue. More pertinent, though, is that when gov't grows large, disgust with politics is much more consequential than in an era of limited government, and more likely to arise due to the increased certainty that reform of the beast becomes all but impossible.

Disgust with politics is indeed a huge issue I believe, and yes, I agree more consequential due to the size it has become. I also notice you have mostly kept clear of the Political Arena and discussion threads, and if my presumptions are correct I can certainly appreciate your reasons for doing so. Some of the posts on current provincial politics (by the usual suspects) are even becoming embarrassing to read, let alone respond to. I mean seriously - “Breaking news scandal: NDP recruit Chinese Communist member” ? Is this the best we can do in discussing our provincial politics? Any young person (perhaps someone currently in high school and getting close to voting age, for example) reading tripe like that is likely very quickly going to become disillusioned and repulsed by the whole idea (or maybe become enraged at the absurd ridiculousness and become motivated that way). Little wonder politics has become such an even sadder joke. That, and the condition you’ve brought forward of government already being an insatiable and uncontrollable, self-perpetuating beast that we allow to continue to exist. What to do?

As long as conservative politicians are able to keep their religious and moralistic ideologies (ie. abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.) out of politics I am, for the most part (better provide that caveat just in case), fully prepared to support their economic goals, and the political goal of smaller government. I do believe in government doing less things, while doing the things we do decide government should do better - for example, proceeding on the basis of evidence-based research. I guess that, then, becomes the question: what do we think government should not be doing that it is doing now? Of course, this question even gets more convoluted when we separate federal from provincial from municipal (etc.) politics. I believe government has two primary goals. One is to provide and foster the conditions to encourage economic development and stability and encourage full economic participation, and the other is to provide for safety and security and protection from threats from both outside and within. These goals, of course, require the achievement of some sub goals and this is where, without strict oversight, we have allowed the bureaucratic monster to be born. For example, education and training, as well as health, are linked to the achievement of both primary goals in important ways. Other bureaucratic pet projects (human rights commission?) are probably not. Where do you want to start homes? What do you see as the role of government and where do we start eliminating government involvement?
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Re: What role for government?

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SL, it dawned on me that your signature is actually well off the mark. Libertarians, adopting Adam Smith (himself not a libertarian) as their patron saint, would not recognize themselves at all in that description. Indeed, borrowing from Smith, they would readily agree most people are only incidentally friendly, fair and sharing, but that it is anyway due not to those sentiments but to their innate self-interest that we owe our prosperity and sharing of such. Just an observation.
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Re: What role for government?

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steven lloyd wrote:Disgust with politics is indeed a huge issue I believe, and yes, I agree more consequential due to the size it has become. I also notice you have mostly kept clear of the Political Arena and discussion threads, and if my presumptions are correct I can certainly appreciate your reasons for doing so. Some of the posts on current provincial politics (by the usual suspects) are even becoming embarrassing to read, let alone respond to.

I have grown weary of jousting with people who have demonstrated they are not worth the effort, and so try to leave that to those with greater tolerance for stupidity and willful ignorance.
... and the condition you’ve brought forward of government already being an insatiable and uncontrollable, self-perpetuating beast that we allow to continue to exist. What to do?

There remains an influentially large portion of the population who, at best, sense there is something wrong but do not identify it as excessive government or excessive regulation, at least as far as it concerns their concerns. So education and persuasion remain necessary projects before we can assume most people understand the problems. When, for example, it becomes the conventional wisdom that 'excessive regulation dulls moral sentiments', that 'the regulatory mentality tends to see all problems as due to insufficiently subtle regulation', that people 'in any line of business faced with a morass of regulation, tend to stop reflecting on “what is right?” and ask only “what is legal?” ' (I borrow these points from better thinkers than I), only then will the necessary steps find the political support they require.

As long as conservative politicians are able to keep their religious and moralistic ideologies (ie. abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.) out of politics ...

These are necessarily political issues, and people's moral guides will, and should, guide their political sentiments. Canada, to my knowledge, has the most open abortion policy in the world, and that will therefore always be a target for political action by people who see viable fetuses as human beings worthy of human rights and protection by government. Similarly, equating the social ramifications of gay marriage with those of hetero marriage will, again, always attract the approbation of people who view marriage as an underpinning of society and should be recognized for this contribution.
I am, for the most part (better provide that caveat just in case), fully prepared to support their economic goals, and the political goal of smaller government. I do believe in government doing less things, while doing the things we do decide government should do better - for example, proceeding on the basis of evidence-based research. I guess that, then, becomes the question: what do we think government should not be doing that it is doing now?

Much. But rather than approach it that way, which would only give opponents of reform the upper-hand, I'd suggest starting from a point of, what should be the role of limited government. That would illuminate what it is government should do, and not do, which includes much of what it currently does.

Take education, for example. There is overwhelming support for the idea that children must get an education, and that education should include certain things. So government necessarily is involved in curriculum development and financing education to grade 12. But ensuring children get an education does not equate to government educating children. Nor does it follow that government should build and run schools, employ teachers, rigorously enforce a standard education (as opposed to a standard of education) and let education be held hostage to organized labor. Yet it does. Unnecessarily.

Health care needs to come under the same microscope. There is strong support for ensuring some level of health care is available for everyone. But why does that mean creating a massive bureaucracy to carry that out? It could operate much as travel health insurance does. You take out a policy to cover the risks you want covered, and when you need medical care, go to the provider of your choice. The bill is taken care of by the insurer, or you pay out of pocket. When you get sick while traveling, you don't search out a government provider because you don't care about that. You just want a doctor, nurse or hospital.

Government policy should encourage or perhaps require people to create medical savings accounts to pay for routine medical bills and use insurance for 'catastrophic' coverage which only the rich could otherwise afford. Direct government subsidization of health care should be reserved for people of low income. Or it could provide everyone a basic level of care, to be supplemented by medical savings accounts and insurance. In either case, health care, including hospitals, would be private.

This would result in different coverage for different people. But then not everyone has the same needs or has the same resources. Bill Gates doesn't need a medical savings account or insurance.
Of course, this question even gets more convoluted when we separate federal from provincial from municipal (etc.) politics. I believe government has two primary goals. One is to provide and foster the conditions to encourage economic development and stability and encourage full economic participation, and the other is to provide for safety and security and protection from threats from both outside and within. These goals, of course, require the achievement of some sub goals and this is where, without strict oversight, we have allowed the bureaucratic monster to be born. For example, education and training, as well as health, are linked to the achievement of both primary goals in important ways. Other bureaucratic pet projects (human rights commission?) are probably not. Where do you want to start homes? What do you see as the role of government and where do we start eliminating government involvement?

We could start by eliminating human rights commissions. Wouldn't save much money but it would eliminate a serious threat to real human and civil rights. But I digress.

I don't think strict oversight can achieve these goals, partly because it rarely happens, partly because such is anathema to some parts of the political spectrum. But I would ask, why should government be involved in ensuring full economic participation, beyond ensuring education of young people. Frankly, I don't think it's possible to start down that road without becoming enslaved to the beast. There are going to always be some people with greater access to jobs and economic opportunity than others, and an endless parade of programs seeking to address it, but mainly achieving the opposite by favoring some over others.

The same with fostering the conditions that encourage economic development. Of course government can work toward a stable currency and guard against excessive regulation. But where does the goal of encouraging economic development end? Government provision of venture capital could be justified under such a goal, as could tax breaks, grants to business, training programs; the possibilities are endless.

Time runs short so I'll return to this later ...
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Re: What role for government?

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Homeownertoo wrote:SL, it dawned on me that your signature is actually well off the mark. Libertarians, adopting Adam Smith (himself not a libertarian) as their patron saint, would not recognize themselves at all in that description. Indeed, borrowing from Smith, they would readily agree most people are only incidentally friendly, fair and sharing, but that it is anyway due not to those sentiments but to their innate self-interest that we owe our prosperity and sharing of such. Just an observation.

Fair enough. I think we will get side-tracked going down this route but for the record I don’t personally consider my signature off the mark at all. It is my opinion that those people still believing that the “free market” is self-regulating via the “invisible hand” are (again, in my opinion) misguided at best, and possibly even delusional. If people still recognized that their individual needs were best met through the collective well-being and success of everyone (or “most everyone” more realistically) we wouldn’t have a world where 10% of the population controlled 90% of its wealth and resources and there was so much poverty and suffering.

People are so self-interested in such an individualistic and isolated fashion of thinking that as soon as a person starts talking about notions of responsibility toward a collective they think you’re talking about socialism or communism instead of just wanting to inspire some sense of community and social responsibility. On another thread I suggested things like tolerance and appreciation for diversity can be taught and modelled. Things like responsibility toward self and to toward others (ie. the dreaded “collective”) can be taught and modelled. In a world that is becoming more complex, more inter-active, and more interdependent the need for people to learn how to get along has never been greater – and that includes the inclination and skills to not only look after themselves, but to look out for and after each other. There – I repeated myself.

Homeownertoo wrote: But I would ask, why should government be involved in ensuring full economic participation, beyond ensuring education of young people. Frankly, I don't think it's possible to start down that road without becoming enslaved to the beast. There are going to always be some people with greater access to jobs and economic opportunity than others, and an endless parade of programs seeking to address it, but mainly achieving the opposite by favoring some over others.

You’ve made some great points in this second post (too many to respond to here now) that I agree with. In response to this quoted point, though, I want to make sure you understand that I completely differentiate between suggesting government should “encourage” full economic participation and your questioning why we would expect government to be “ensuring” full economic participation. The first goal is something we can work toward. The second, as you might agree, is steering toward something much closer to socialism or even totalitarianism which, of course, is exactly what we don’t want. I am a libertarian in the sense I believe that what people do, as long as it is not a threat to the liberty or property or safety of others, is no damn business of government. However, again it is my opinion (a belief that is shared with many others) that our individual interests and well-being would be better served and realized if we all individually had an instilled sense of responsibility for the well-being of the collective/community/society as a whole.

This is an interesting topic (much more interesting than our pathetic provincial election campaign). Hopefully we can get some contributions from some other posters here as well and back on to what we believe the role of government should be. As I’ve suggested before, my time is limited but I have already put forth two main areas in a previous post. Adiós por ahora mi amigo.
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Re: What role for government?

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No one else seems terribly interested in this topic, which probably says much for our hopes of refocusing the role of government.

A couple of observations from current events, though. In last week's local paper, there was an article on the list of projects the civic bureaucracy presented to city council for future years. More than a wish list, it is fully expected council will sign off on it. The interesting point was that the bureaucracy conceded tax revenues would not be enough for all the projects they have in mind, so borrowing would be required. My question is, why does that fact not even raise a red flag for either the bureaucracy of council members? Why does council not instruct the bureaucracy to shelve projects that the city cannot afford, in the full understanding that other expenses will come up along with way, not to mention the inevitable cost overruns on projects as they go ahead? There seems to be disconnect in our governments between what we wish for and what we can afford, and no appreciation that ever-growing government is anything but benign.

The second is the current IRS scandal in the US. If you are not following it closely, as I am, you may not be aware of the extent of the corruption beyond the headline issue of conservatives getting targeted for their politics. For a better appreciation, I suggest Peggy Noonan's most recent article http://online.wsj.com/article/declarations.html and her previous one http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323582904578487460479247792.html?mod=WSJ_article_RecentColumns_Declarations.

I consider this scandal a good example of the perils of big government. Obama came to politics and office believing he could reverse the presumption of Ronald Reagan that 'government is the problem'. In his naivety, or more likely, his conceit, he thought big government, or at least big liberal government, is benign. (Hard to see how, given the history of his own misuse of political power dating to before his election in 2008). When you read Noonan's piece, it is clear how wrong he is. Yes, all government can misuse its powers, even small government, but all-pervasive gov't has so much more scope and opportunity to do so, when the will is there. And as we are now seeing with the Obama administration, the will is there.

You have asked, where do we cut. Ask instead, how do we ensure cuts are made. Starving government of money is my suggestion. Yes, the wrong things will be cut, as we saw happen (very deliberately) by the Obama administration under the sequestration. But that is self-correcting, as it was with the sequestration cuts, when voters see their leaders acting unwisely or against their (the citizens') interests. That and debt limits, such as they have in the US, are useful tools for getting the process started and getting the debate started.
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Re: What role for government?

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Homeownertoo wrote:No one else seems terribly interested in this topic, which probably says much for our hopes of refocusing the role of government.

Indeed. Seemingly and sadly so - although I won’t presume why others deem our topic unworthy of their participation. People do get busy. I know I’ve wanted to respond to Glacier’s post on “the Third Jihad” for some time but haven’t been able to find the time to even watch it - until today.

Homeownertoo wrote: You have asked, where do we cut. Ask instead, how do we ensure cuts are made. Starving government of money is my suggestion. Yes, the wrong things will be cut, as we saw happen (very deliberately) by the Obama administration ...

... or recklessly as under Campbell’s tenure, but I believe you are likely right. Until we can start starving the pigs at the trough and forcing the bureaucracy to lose weight it will be difficult to maintain a true accounting of our spending.
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Homeownertoo
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Re: What role for government?

Post by Homeownertoo »

A recent article in the local newspaper outlined the spending entailed in the bureaucracy's wishlist for upcoming (over the next decade or so) projects. It didn't specify how the list was compiled but it pointed out that spending would outstrip revenue over the period and that borrowing would be required. While the final decision is up to city council, the article made no mention of alternative lists or prioritization of projects that would avoid adding to the city's debt load. It simply took the position that these were desired projects and a responsible city would of course go into further debt for them.

Now I read that Canada's top three cities are headed for financial crisis because they can't stop spending more than they take in. Not surprisingly, all three cities are dominated by free-spending councils that consider it irresponsible to budget responsibly. http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/05/29/canadian-cities-headed-for-financial-crisis-if-they-continue-to-overspend-report/

At the same time, Bill O'Reilly on Fox News in the US has discussed several times a perceived shift in voter mentality over the past several decades (ie. since the mid-'60s Great Society legislation) away from concern for financial probity in both personal and public life, the former manifested in turning to government to fulfill every want, the latter in the government taking over great swathes of the formerly private economy and the lack of concern over endless massive budget deficits incurred over financing what would have been seen by previous generations as largely trivial spending. Underpinning it all is the growth of the regulatory state (Obamacare and the EPA under Obama being two new offenders) to the point where it saps economic growth. I can hardly deny his concerns, and as he says, the problem is us, the voters.
“Certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed.” -- Leftist icon Herbert Marcuse
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Urbane
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Re: What role for government?

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As the role of government has expanded so has the level of disappointment with government. In this excerpt Robert Samuelson is talking about the United States but his comments apply to Canada as well:

Since World War II, American government has assumed more responsibilities than can reasonably be met.

Some are unattainable; others are in conflict. Government is, among other things, supposed to: control the business cycle; combat poverty; cleanse the environment; provide health care; protect the elderly; subsidize college students; aid states and localities. There are more. Most are essentially postwar commitments. As I've written before, government becomes almost "suicidal" by pervasively generating unrealistic expectations.

The more people depend on it, the more they may be disappointed by it.
Full column: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articl ... 18654.html

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