Thursday, September 6, 2012
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?