Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Proposal for an Almost Anarchist Small Government

I've listened to enough of the Democratic and Republican conventions to make me wonder if we'd be better off in a near-anarchist, truly small government.

So as a thought experiment, here are some of my ideas on what a minimalist government would look like. Some of this is adapted from my new book, What's the Big Idea? 39 disruptive ideas for a better America. 

Retain public schools but eliminate all district, county, state, and federal education bureaucracies and rules. Give teachers freedom to teach what they're passionate about and what they think their kids need to and want to learn. I would emphasize education for citizenship: ethics, empathizing with others, communication skills, and encouraging a cosmic obligation to care about people other than yourself.

Eliminate preventive policing--e.g., cops patrolling the streets. To deter crime significantly, you'd need five cops on every block, roaming through buildings, regularly invading privacy. Feasible-level preventive policing doesn't work well enough to justify the cost to the taxpayer. I would retain a streamlined police force to apprehend criminals.

Cut the defense budget by 80-90%. I'd guess that the additional safety that accrues beyond the most beneficial 10-20% is too small to justify taking all that money from the taxpayer.

Retain government's role in commandeering the building and maintaining of the infrastructure.

Eliminate government "investment" in energy and other technologies. If all companies, with all their brilliant scientists and bean counters, have all rejected a technology, it is too unlikely to be worth taxpayer money, even in the long-term. Examples: ethanol, a nationwide network of electric car plug-in stations, bus lines that traverse empty. In Napa, taxpayer money was used to create gorgeous trolleys that ran for years from Napa's periphery to the downtown. They were always empty, a moving monument to the absurdity of so much of government's spending of our money.

Eliminate all social programs that haven't demonstrated even marginal cost-benefit. Those include such media and liberal darlings as Head Start, job retraining, and even extending unemployment checks. (That results in so many people saying, "Good. Now I don't have to look for work for another 26 weeks.) Similarly, every time government increases financial aid, colleges think, "Good. Now we can raise tuition more."

Reevaluate well-intentioned but side-effect-ridden government programs. Few could argue with the intent of affirmative action. Yet the result has too often been to move merit to a back seat. That causes enormous damage to America. Increasing home ownership is a reasonable goal but government policies to encourage that triggered the financial meltdown. Banks were pressured to give loans to people who couldn't afford to buy a home and so created Stated Qualifications loans, the so-called "liar loans." It's no surprise that many of the borrowers defaulted.

I believe government should not restrict gay marriage nor a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. I'm ambivalent about legalizing marijuana--Its use would increase, which would take a devastating toll on motivation and memory, and increase traffic accidents. For the same reason, I am ambivalent about alcohol being legal. Of course, prohibition would result in a black market but I'd guess that the horrific societal effects of alcohol abuse would be significantly reduced.

Allow the right to die. It's crazy that millions of dying people must live their final weeks in agonizing (and expensive) pain because the government says they can't ask a doctor to painlessly end their irreversible misery.

My intuition says that those proposals would lead to a better America. But no one could assert that with confidence...except for a politician.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I agree with many of your recommendations. When I see cute trollies in downtowns with few people in them I suspect that a private company has “friends” in the state or local government who give them a contract. But I am cynical.

Anonymous said...

Your America would make for a much livelier place. In the beginning, it would be very messy, as people would have to be weened off government services and potholes wouldn't be magically filled in. People would be forced to participate and be more accountable to their communities. But it seems the crime rate would go way down, in direct proportion to gun ownership going way up.

Marc Joffe said...

I agree with these ideas, and especially appreciate the "right to die" suggestion. The fact that we waste so many resources to involuntarily add a few miserable weeks to the ends of peoples' lives is terrible. I recommend the book "Final Exit", although I have to admit that I am procrastinating about buying the recommended ingredients.

Anonymous said...

if the "defense budget" were "cut by 80-90 percent" you would effectively be destroying the most effective jobs program we ever have had since the destruction of the low-paying semi-skilled job sector. You would be throwing millions of young women and men back into their broken neighborhoods, where their only choice was to become part of the criminal economy or go into the service.

Also every "cut in spending" slashes defense-related high tech and high skilled jobs. Elitist "service economy" white collar types in SF owe your ability to talk for a living to the fact that this other, strong, taxpayer base exists, and the capacity to keep producing defense-related goods and services continues.

Also, I don't think you'd want to live on this planet if this--the only nation ever founded on the principles of the Enlightenment--was not the world's "cop." Who would take that role? Russia? Japan? Saudi Arabia? (#2, 3, and 5 globally after the US) That'd go well.

It is the principles of civilized behavior behind the DoD that have allowed it to become both powerful and amazingly restrained. I think that as a taxpayer I get much better value for the dollar from the Pentagon than from, say, public schooling including both K-12 and "higher" education, welfare, food stamps (actually welfare for transnational agri-pharma businesses), health care for stupid degenerates, or services for illegal immigrants.

If we want to slash something let's slash handouts to the nonproductive.

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you most recent Anonymous for your thoughtful comments.

My reactions: I don't believe that job creation is sufficient justification for military spending. I'd sooner return the $ to the taxpayer who'd end up creating jobs that will yield more benefit to society and not require the US to be a military monster.

With regard to the U.S. being the world's policeman. Those zillions have arguably done more to hurt us than help us. Again, I believe the money is more wisely spent by the people who can then unleash the brilliant invisible hand of the market.