Posts Tagged ‘Government’

The case against government and civilization

April 19, 2014

Montani Semper Liberi: Mountaineers Always Free

==State Motto of West Virginia

James C. Scott, a political scientist and anthropologist, in his book, THE ART OF NOT BEING GOVERNED: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, (2009) calls into question accepted ideas about government versus anarchy, civilization versus barbarism and the nature of progress. It is an account of a mountain region including parts of Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, plus northeast India and four provinces of southern China, which is home 100 million people.

Scott’s argument is that the tribal people of this region, which he calls Zomia, are not backward and not at an earlier stage of human development.  Rather they have made a rational choice not to be subject to government and to be free of despotism, serfdom, taxation, military conscription and slavery, which is what civilization has meant to most people for most of history.

scott.notgoverned.coverHe tied it in with a larger framework which is not the familiar story of the rise and spread of civilization, but an unfamiliar story of evasion and  escape from the spread of civilization.

The invention of agriculture made civilization possible.  It created a food surplus large enough to allow people to be employed full-time as overseers, priests and soldiers.  This was beneficial to rulers, but not necessarily to their subjects.  I recall reading that ancient remains of hunter-gatherers show them to have been bigger and healthier than those who worked the land.   The lives of laborers who built the Pyramids were more nasty, poor, brutish and short than the free nomads in the deserts beyond.

There always were people who fled to inaccessible mountains, forests (like Robin Hood), jungles, marshes and the open sea to be free of control — the Berbers in North Africa, the runaway Russian serfs who formed the Cossack nation, the runaway slaves who joined with natives to form the “maroon” communities of North and South America, even those white American pioneers like Daniel Boone who preferred life beyond the frontier of settlement.   But their story has been neglected, Scott wrote, because they left few artifacts and virtually no written records.   Upland southeast Asia is part of that story.

Civilization in China, as elsewhere, originated in fertile river valleys where there was enough of an agricultural surplus to support a government and an army, which gave rulers the means to bring more people under their control.  Scott said that the rulers of China, and their imitators in the small kingdoms to the southeast, were less interested in increasing the territory under their rule than in increasing the number of people under their rule.  Conquering generals were expected to bring back captives to increase the subject population.   The Great Wall of China and the Chinese border troops were more to keep their subjects in than to keep invaders out, according to Scott.

Southeast Asia was largely populated by people whose ancestors were pushed out of what’s now southern China by the expanding Han Chinese.   Some organized governments on Chinese and Indian models, based on royal courts and hierarchies of rank.   These centered in rice-growing areas.  The advantage, from the standpoint of governments, is that rice and other grain crops are easy to identify, hard to relocate and easy to confiscate.   Rulers wanted their subjects, in Scott’s phrase, to be “legible”.

The hill people of southeast Asia didn’t want to live like this.  They chose to live in mountain regions that were hard to get to.  Ethnic groups, according to Scott, were differentiated not so much by location on the map as by altitude.   They defined themselves by how much hardship they were willing to endure to make themselves inaccessible, versus how much they wanted to trade with or raid the more settled people below..

Zomians mainly engaged on foraging, or in slash-and-burn agriculture (swiddening), which involves cutting down the trees, burning the underbrush, planting a crop for one growing season and moving on.   They planted root crops, which were hard to spot and hard to seize.  New World crops such as the sweet potato quickly found their way to Zomia.   (The Irish took to the potato for the same reason.  Potatoes were hard for English landlords and tax-collectors to seize, and the potato mounds tripped up the Irish horsemen.)

The hill peoples had flexible and changeable social structures, much to the frustration of the valley kingdoms whose rulers never were completely sure who or what they were dealing with.   They often were multi-lingual  and multi-cultural, adopting different customs depending on whom they dealing with.   When invaders came, they tended to scatter and fade away, breaking up into smaller units.

Southeast Asia kingdoms had established religions, usually based on Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism.   The upland peoples followed individual shamans with fluid doctrines and, in times of crisis, often followed charismatic prophets who appeared seemingly from nowhere, but often were defectors from the civilized communities.

In his most debatable chapter, Scott argued that there was an advantage to being an oral culture rather than an illiterate culture, and that rejection of literacy may have been a choice rather than a pre-existing condition.

Written laws and histories are a means to give kingdoms a fixed identity and hold them together.   An oral tradition is easier to adapt and change.   This, of course, is contrary to the idea that people who lack a recorded history live in a culture that is timeless and unchanging.  I think of the Comanche Indians, who wandered the Great Plains on foot for centuries, but as soon as they encountered stray horses left by the Spanish conquistadors, transformed themselves into some of the fiercest and most effective mounted warriors the world has ever seen.

These are all generalities, but, as Scott noted, every upland culture was different.  Each had its own mix and match of traits from different cultures.   He made had a lot of specific things to say about the Hmong, the Karen and other peoples, most of which didn’t register on me.  I’m more interested in the overall picture.

The inhabitants of Zomia were not angels and their societies did not represent an anarchist idea of utopia.  Some had a trading relationship with neighboring civilized communities.  None of them were barbarian invaders like the Vikings, Mongols or Huns, but  some were thieves and bandits, and some have been slave traders.   The region includes the Golden Triangle, a central of the world opium trade.

However, the main objection to the upland peoples by the Chinese, by the southeast Asian kings, by the British and French colonial rulers and by the modern governments is the same — that they are hard to pin down and command.   The possibility of evading control of government becomes less every year, barring some civilization-destroying catastrophe, which Scott does not consider.

The main thoughts I took away from this book were:

1.  The desire for freedom – that is, the desire to live one’s life without taking orders from overseers – is not limited to American or European culture.  It is found in many different cultures, probably all or almost all of them.

2.  As the world’s cultures go, we Americans are not, as a whole, especially freedom-loving.  As somebody pointed out, we think of ourselves as heirs of Athenian democracy, but the way the USA is organized is more like the Persian Empire.   We accept much more supervision in our daily lives than not only our ancestors, but than much of world’s peoples through history.

3.  As an offset, we have the possibility, which has only emerged since the American and French revolutions, of creating governments that serve the welfare of their subjects, and are accountable to their subjects.   This is a new experiment in human history, not certain to succeed, but worth trying to make succeed.


Now the USA is the dysfunctional democracy

October 18, 2013

When I studied political science in college nearly 60 years ago, we were taught to contrast the sensible, pragmatic American and British political cultures with the ideological, gridlocked French and Italians.

How a Bill Becomes Law - UpdatedIn France and Italy in the 1950s, governments fell and new governmental coalitions had to be formed every few months, or so it seemed, and the diverse political parties could never agree on policies to address their nations problems.

But I never heard of any French or Italian political party that tried to stop their governments from carrying out their lawful functions or paying their lawful bills, as happened during the past couple of weeks here in the United States.  Today it is we Americans who set an example of ideological, gridlocked government.

Our Constitution sets up a legislative process that says enactment of a law requires agreement among a President elected by the nation, a House of Representatives elected by districts on a population basis and a Senate elected by states on a state sovereignty basis.  That is a more complicated and difficult process than in most democratic governments.  But now agreement among these three bodies is required merely to allow the government to carry out responsibilities mandated by law.

The politics of defunding Obamacare

September 26, 2013


Click on What Republicans don’t understand about the politics of Obamacare for more from Ezra Klein on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Hat tip to jobsanger.

Affluence on the Potomac

May 31, 2012

The Washington, D.C., area has overtaken Silicon Valley as the nation’s most affluent metropolitan area.

Andrew Ferguson of Time magazine explained why.

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The size of the nonmilitary, nonpostal federal workforce has stayed relatively stable since the 1960s. What has changed is not the government payroll but the number of government contractors.  It’s estimated that, thanks to massive outsourcing over the past 20 years by the Clinton and Bush administrations, there are two government contractors for every worker directly employed by the government.  Federal contracting is the region’s great growth industry.  A government contractor can even hire contractors for help in getting more government contracts.  You could call those guys ­government-contract contractors.

Which means government hasn’t shrunk; it’s just changed clothes (and pretty nice clothes they are). The contractors are famous for secrecy; many have job titles that are designed to bewilder.  What is it, after all, that an analyst, a facilitator, a consultant, an adviser, a strategist actually does to earn his or her paycheck?  Champions of the capital’s Shangri-la economy like to brag of ­Washington’s knowledge workers.

Peter Corbett isn’t so sure about the wisdom of D.C.’s version of the knowledge economy.  Corbett heads a social-media marketing company, with corporate clients that have famous names.  Most of his work involves nonprofit foundations that have flocked to Washington to be close to the fount of grants and tax breaks.  He did a single project for the federal government and then swore it off for good.  He describes his first meeting at the Pentagon.  “There are 12 people sitting around the table,” he says. “I didn’t know eight of them. I said, ‘Who are you?’ They say, ‘I’m with Booz Allen.’ ‘I’m with Lockheed.’ ‘I’m with CACI.’ ‘ But why are you here?’ ‘ We’re consultants on your project.’  I said, ‘You are?’  They were charging the government $300 an hour, and I had no idea what they were doing, and neither did they.  They were just there.  So I just ignored them and did my project with my own people.”

Aside from its wealth, the single defining feature of über-Washington is its youth.  Most of the people who have moved to Washington since 2006 have been under 35; the region has the highest ­percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds in the U.S.  “We’re a mecca for young people,” [economist Stephen] Fuller [of George Mason University] says.   One recent arrival says word has gotten out to new graduates that Washington is where the work is.  “It’s a place where a ­liberal-arts major can still get a job,” she says, “because you don’t need a particular skill.”

Click on Bubble on the Potomac for the full article.  Hat tip for the link to Marginal Revolution, which I list in my Best Blogs menu.

[Later]  I am not anti-government, as anybody who reads this web log will know.  We need letter carriers, school teachers, firefighters, public health nurses and a whole range of other public servants who do actual work.   Most of them are less well compensated, by a long shot, than the people Ferguson described in his article.

America’s bargain postal rates

May 1, 2012

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones looked at the new bill enacted by the Senate and noticed one thing missing—a increase in postal rates sufficient to cover costs.

Take a look at countries around the world that have smaller volumes of mail than us: they all charge higher postage rates. They have to. And as volumes keep declining in America, we’re going to need higher rates here too. Right now, a first-class equivalent stamp runs 75¢ in Germany, 72¢ in Britain, 82¢ in France, 98¢ in Switzerland, 97¢ in Belgium, and 63¢ in the Netherlands. There’s no way that we can stay at 45¢ as volumes decline and pretend that somehow everything will be hunky-dory.

But allowing the price of a stamp to go up is apparently even more of a political taboo than closing rural post offices. I suppose Democrats are afraid of annoying granny and Republicans are so intent on busting the postal carriers union that they don’t like the idea of anything that brings in more revenue. We are ruled by idiots.

via Mother Jones.

Postal rates are set by an agency called the Postal Regulatory Service.  Under a 2006 law, the price of first-class mail stamps, periodical delivery and other services in which the USPS is “market dominant” can be increased only by such amount as is necessary to keep pace with the rise in the Consumer Price Index.  The USPS is free to increase prices of services in which it is “competitive,” such as priority mail or commercial package delivery.

My impression is that the Postal Service’s main problem is an excessive requirement pre-paying pensions.  The bill passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate eases that requirement, saving the Postal Service $5 billion a year and allowing it to reclaim $11 billion in excess payments.  Whether it will survive the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is another question.

But Kevin Drum makes a good point.  Our so-called “snail mail” is a real bargain.   It’s one respect in which our government service appears to surpass foreign governments.  Why get rid of it?

Click on Rearranging the Deck Chairs at the Postal Service for Kevin Drum’s full summary of the bill.

Click on Senate approves bill to help United States Postal Service for the Los Angeles Times’ report on the bill.

Click on In praise of the U.S. postal service for my earlier post on the Postal Service.

Welfare reform is a partial success story

March 2, 2012

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Click to enlarge.

Years ago I had a good friend who was a single mother who had received Aid to Dependent Children from the local welfare department.  She attended the same high school I did in the late 1950s and early 1960s, some years after I left to go to college and do my military service.  She became pregnant in her early teens, married the father and dropped out of high school.   She and her young husband were too immature for marriage, and they soon divorced.  In those days, this course of events wasn’t uncommon. She found herself on her own with children to support, and applied for welfare assistance.

When I met her she had a job and no longer was receiving assistance.  She said that going to the welfare department and having her name taken off the public assistance rolls was the hardest thing she ever did in her life.  She told me that she was terrified to do this, because she was putting not only herself but her children at risk.  So long as she was a welfare client, she could be assured that her children would receive food and medical care.  Off welfare, her children’s food and doctor bills were her responsibility.  Things worked out.  Both she and her ex-husband got married again, to different people, and so far as I know did okay thereafter.

Nowadays things might not be so rough for someone in her situation.  Medicaid provides a minimum level of medical insurance for working poor people.  The Affordable Care Act will provide universal health insurance, supposedly at an affordable rate.  The expansion of the food stamp program since that era means that in principle no family need go without enough to eat.

The most significant change was the Clinton administration’s 1996 welfare reform.  Requirements for being on welfare were tightened up, while the Earned Income Tax Credit, a reverse income tax, provides supplemental income so that poor people on welfare are not penalized for getting jobs.

The charts above indicate that the Clinton-era welfare reform worked in terms of moving single-parent families from welfare to work.  It did not work so well in terms of reducing the number of children in poverty, which to my mind is the more important thing.  It is the experience of growing up in poverty, as much asnot just the experience of having a single-parent, that makes an adult likely to be poor themselves.   I don’t think the solution to this is to be found within the welfare system.  What we need is to get back to a full-employment, high-wage economy in which anyone willing to work can earn a decent living.

Double click to enlarge.

Having said this, I acknowledge that there are women in this country who think that it is perfectly normal to make a living by having babies and getting paid by the government to raise them, and that there are men in this country who think it is normal to live off women who are getting paid to raise fatherless children.

I admit I don’t have a good answer.  I don’t believe you can treat children as you would treat unwanted puppies or kittens.  A decent society should not let children go hungry or without needed medical care.

Here is a difference, I think, between liberal and conservative attitudes.  A typical conservative wants to make sure that no help goes to anyone who doesn’t deserve it, even if some deserving people are cut off.  A typical liberal such as myself wants to be sure that everybody who really needs help should get it, even if some undeserving people also are helped.  I agree that a balance is needed, and either attitude can be taken to a harmful extreme.

Click on What Works Is Work: Welfare Reform and Poverty Reduction for a report by Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution.

Click on Welfare Reform Worked for a shorter report by Haskins along with Peter H. Schuck of Yale Law School.

Click on Indicators of Welfare Dependence for a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which provides all the statistics on this subject that anybody could ever want.


Visualizing the revolving door

January 2, 2012

Click on Crowd-sourcing the revolving door for the source of this chart and commentary.

It is misleading in a way, because it implies that all the corporate interlocks with government are with Democrats, when the fact is that the Republicans are at least as bad.  But it does debunk the notion that the Democratic Party is a champion of the ordinary person against the power of big business, as well as the notion that the Democratic Party has a socialistic agenda that is anathema to big business.

The Postal Service and its enemies

December 6, 2011

The U.S. Postal Service yesterday announced a downsizing of service.  It will close more than 200 mail processing centers, which will delay many first class mail deliveries for at least a day.

Up until now more than 40 percent of first class mail has been delivered the following day, 69 percent within two days and 99 percent within three days.  I’d say that’s a bargain for 44 cents (or even 45 cents after Jan. 22).  Under the change, according to the Associated Press, 51 percent of first-class mail will be delivered within two days and “most of the remainder” in three days.  Periodicals will take up to nine days.

Mail-order businesses, such as L.L. Bean and Netflix, will be hurt.  They can shift their business to Federal Express or United Parcel Service, but those businesses rely on the Postal Service to fill gaps in their coverage.

The Postal Service has been losing money for five years, even since Congress imposed a requirement that it fund employee retirement five years in advance.  I believe this requirement is due to a right-wing ideology that opposes government providing a universal service to all Americans rather than just those it is profitable to serve.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe wants to downsize by a different method.  He has asked Congress for authority to reduce delivery to five days a week, raise stamp prices and cut benefits for postal employees.  This what the CEO of a failing corporation would do to postpone the inevitable.

For most of the 20th century, the Postal Service was a model for all public utilities.  Theodore M. Vail, the chief executive officer of American Telephone and Telegraph Co., in 1913 settled anti-trust suits by committing AT&T to providing a universal service to all customers at the same rates and to allow independent telephone companies access to its long-distance service.  Electrical utilities in a later era were prodded into the same commitment.  Employees of telephone and electric companies took pride in quickly restoring service interrupted by storms and floods, just as mail carriers took pride in delivering the mail no matter how bad the weather.

In the 1980s and after, this ethic came under attack.  A commitment to universal service came to be regarded as socialistic (by supporters of Ronald Reagan) or monopolistic (by supporters of Ralph Nader).  What was wanted was competition.  When I reported on business for the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, telephone executives spoke disparagingly of POTS (plain old telephone service).  Instead they admired the people who could create new products—call waiting, caller ID, automatic call forwarding and so on.  Innovation of course is a good thing, but the first duty of a public utility is to maintain basic service.

Mail delivery is a Constitutional function of government (Article I, Section 7).  It seems to me the Founders wanted all Americans to be able to communicate with each other, and that their reasons are still valid today.

If it was up to me, I would not reduce lay off postal workers or reduce postal service—because, among other reasons, the effect of eliminating 28,000 jobs on our recessionary economy.  I would hire postal workers and expand mail delivery to seven days a week.

A question.  If the Postal Service is shut down or privatized, what happens to that 75-year employee retirement trust fund.  Does it go to the private company to use for its own purposes?  Does it revert to the federal government’s general fund?  It certainly isn’t going to be refunded to us postal patrons.

Elizabeth Warren on debt and taxes

October 11, 2011

Click on Elizabeth Warren and liberalism, twisting the ‘social contract’ for conservative Washington Post columnist George F. Will’s criticism of Elizabeth Warren.

Click on The conservative response to Elizabeth Warren for liberal Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent’s rebuttal of George F. Will.

Click on How George Will Misunderstands Both Warren and Liberalism for New Republic writer William Galston’s critique of George F. Will’s critique.

In praise of the U.S. Postal Service

September 3, 2011

I’m a great admirer of the U.S. Postal Service.  If it didn’t exist, and some entrepreneur proposed doing what it does, it would be regarded as a miracle of free enterprise.  Consider:

Six days a week it delivers an average of 563 million pieces of mail—40 percent of the entire world’s volume.  For the price of a 44¢ stamp, you can mail a letter anywhere within the nation’s borders.  The service will carry it by pack mule to the Havasupai Indian reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Mailmen on snowmobiles take it to the wilds of Alaska.  If your recipient can no longer be found, the USPS will return it at no extra charge.  It may be the greatest bargain on earth.

It takes an enormous organization to carry out such a mission.  The USPS has 571,566 full-time workers, making it the country’s second-largest civilian employer after Wal-Mart Stores.  It has 31,871 post offices, more than the combined domestic retail outlets of Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and McDonald’s.  Last year its revenues were $67 billion, and its expenses were even greater.  Postal service executives proudly note that if it were a private company, it would be No. 29 on the Fortune 500.

via BusinessWeek.

But now the U.S. Postal Service is on the brink of insolvency, for two reasons.  Its most profitable businesses are being cherry-picked by Federal Express, United Parcel Service and other private companies.  The USPS has the mandate to make a profit, but also the requirement to provide a universal service.

The question is which is more important—making a profit or universal service.  If making a profit is more important, there is no need for a government Postal Service.  But if we want a universal service, if we want sheep herders in Idaho and 86-year-old widows who can’t afford Internet connections to have a right to send and receive messages at an affordable cost, then we should think of it as a public service.

Here is an illustration of the difference.

The Post Office–“Neither snow nor rain…”:  During Christmas week in 2008, a terrible blizzard hit the Puget Sound region.  Not being well-equipped for blizzards, many of us were shut-in for days, and my street was one of many that went unplowed.

On Christmas Eve, my daughter and I went out to build a snowman.  Our snow-blanketed street was deserted and silent.  After a while, we were surprised to hear a vehicle approaching.  Soon a U.S. postal truck, producing the only tire tracks on the road, came into view.  The truck stopped at our house and the mail carrier delivered two packages for my daughter, one from each grandmother.

Without that delivery, my daughter would have had only one present on Christmas day, the one her father and I gave her.

FedEx–“A blizzard? Get it yourself!”:  The day after Christmas, my sister called to ask how my daughter had liked her gift, and we told her we never received it.  My sister said, “Man, FedEx sucks! I paid extra for them to deliver it on Christmas Eve!”

When I called FedEx to inquire about it, I was told that they weren’t going to deliver until the snow melted, and if I wanted the package sooner, I had to go to the main FedEx facility to pick it up.  I stood in line at the facility for about two hours that weekend.  A Tacoma News-Tribune article later reported that neither FedEx nor UPS had made any of their deliveries during Christmas week, to the consternation of their customers, but the U.S. Post Office had made all of theirs.

via Green for the rest of us.


Firemen First principle

August 6, 2011

When forced to cut budgets, bureaucrats will cut muscle rather than fat, because they are the fat.

Corps of Engineers Corollary.

When bureaucrats have money to spend, they will not only seek ways to spend it, but constituencies to demand that they keep spending it.


It’s the total debt, not the deficit, that matters

July 21, 2011
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This chart, which first appeared in the Washington Post, is seriously flawed, but still informative.  The flaws are:

  • The color code for the House of Representatives is off.  Red, not blue, represents Democratic majorities; blue, not red, represents Republican majorities.  The color code for the Senate and for Presidential administrations is consistent with the key of red for Republicans, blue for Democrats
  • Party responsibility should be moved a year to the right.  Fiscal 2009, which began Oct. 1, 2008, was the last budget of the George W. Bush administration; fiscal 2001, which began Oct. 1, 2000, was the last budget of the Clinton administration; and so on.  Nearly every chart showing the history of federal taxes and spending makes this mistake.

Nevertheless, the chart is important because it shows that the size of the total government debt, not the size of the annual deficit, is what matters.  The government’s annual deficit was slightly lower in 2010 than in 2009.  How much that was due to President Obama and how much to the economy, I can’t say.  Nevertheless, the total government debt went up, as under previous administrations.

There’s something else that’s even more important than the size of the government debt, and that is the size of the debt in relation to the size of the economy.  The United States came out of World War Two with a huge debt that never was paid off, but it ceased to matter, because the economy grew so much in the next 30 years that the debt become less and less important.

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The debt to GDP ratio can be improved by reducing or eliminating the annual government budget deficit, and by growing the economy. Economic growth will help shrink the deficit.  Shrinking the deficit may or may not help economic growth, depending on how it is done.

The federal government does not control the growth of the economy, but there are ways that it can help.  It can rein in reckless speculation by investment banks, so that they return to investing in the real economy.  And it can spend money on things that contribute to economic growth, such as education, scientific research, infrastructure and maintenance of basic services.

There is a fine line to walk.  Spend money on useless things, and you worsen both the government’s financial position and the overall economy.  Refuse to spend money on essential things, and you also stifle economic growth.


Where the deficit comes from

May 24, 2011

If you are serious about reducing the U.S. government’s debt, you need to start with the figures shown in this chart.

Click to enlarge

The largest factor in the debt is the Bush-era tax cuts.  If you thought the most important thing is to reduce the government’s debt, you would restore tax levels to the level in the 1990s.  This means middle-class taxes as well as taxes on the rich.  I’m willing to do my share, if the millionaires and billionaires do theirs.

The next largest factor in the debt is the economic downturn.  Government outlays for unemployment insurance and food stamps increase, while fewer people are earning wages and salaries to provide tax revenue.  If you thought the most important thing is to reduce the debt, you would make a plan to put Americans back to work.

The third largest factor in the debt is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now mutating into wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and maybe Yemen.  If you thought the most important thing is to reduce the debt, you would make a plan to wind those wars down.


President Obama negotiates with the GOP

November 19, 2010

Vegetarians running for barbecue chef

November 1, 2010

Tea Party Republicans are unlikely to do a good job running the government, for the same reason a bunch of vegetarians are unlikely to put on a good barbecue, a bunch of teetotalers are unlikely to mix good cocktails, and members of the Socialist Workers Party are unlikely to do a good job of running a Fortune 500 corporation.

If you sincerely believe that “government is the problem” – not just a particular activity or power of government, but government itself – then it is an exercise in futility to try to manage the government efficiently and effectively.  In fact, the closer you come to governing well, the more you undermine your argument, and the more you mess up, the more you prove your original argument was right.

Goyette’s Second Law

June 6, 2010

A government performs its legitimate functions in a manner inversely proportional to the degree in which it busies itself in unauthorized activities.