Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Big government: Stop!

without comments

Are the measures discussed in these articles just more cases of big government expansion, or are they wise efforts to create a more efficient economy? There’s a theme in today’s posts, looking at the expansion of government, particularly in the energy sector, asking whether or not it is prudent intervention. Clearly the U.S. government has been expanding since well before the current administration, though the past year has seen a new level of growth in government spending. I’ll sit the fence and look forward to your comments and emails.

We’ve heard Dems’ claims that the 16% of our GPD spent on health care is terribly inefficient, so substantial policy is warranted to streamline this important aspect of our economy, especially with the baby boomers reaching retirement.

Many are making similar arguments about energy. For example, approximately two-thirds of electrical energy is lost before it ever reaches homes and businesses. Government expenditures to decrease that waste, it is argued, are prudent investments that will save money in the long run. Conservatives counter that this is a problem best solved by one of our most efficient and effective tools: The free market. The enormous regulation and government involvement strangling utilities preclude a shrewd solution.

I see the validity in each argument, tending at my ideological roots towards the libertarian urge to get government out of as much as possible, but also understanding that a more long-term vision may be needed to encourage necessary change. Highways, telephones, and even the internet are examples of highly convenient aspects of our economy that would not exist were it not for considerable help from the state. Still, each of those sectors grew from substantial demand that made market distortions functional and largely disposable in the end. The auto industry, and to a lesser extent aviation, are examples that one might say have been less successful at making the move from fledglings to the free market.

Clearly there is not a monolithic answer: Government all good or all bad. There are times, such as education and health care, when there is a need for support from the state. Though even then there is a spectrum of ways the government can be involved, ranging from total control to very light intervention that mimics the market. And different approaches are warranted for different sectors. Okay, that’s enough back and forth.

Let me know what you think.

The size and power of the state is growing, and discontent is on the rise

Jan 21st 2010
From The Economist print edition

IN THE aftermath of the Senate election in Massachusetts, the focus of attention is inevitably on what it means for Barack Obama. The impact on the Democratic president of the loss of the late Ted Kennedy’s seat to the Republicans will, no doubt, be significant (see article). Yet the result could be remembered as a message more profound than the disparate mutterings of a grumpy electorate that has lost faith in its leader—as a growl of hostility to the rising power of the state.

[…]

There are good reasons, as well as bad ones, why the state is growing; but the trend must be reversed.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 26th, 2010 at 9:14 am