[For anyone who doesn't know, I'm from the United States of America and talking about my own government.]
As someone who's only foray into opinion columns was trying to make a historical argument for higher taxes on the rich, perhaps this comes as no surprise. But there I was mostly talking about debt and investing. Here I want to talk about big government in itself.
I hear a lot of arguments against it, I don't hear nearly enough for it. In fact, not only do we not really hear arguments for it, we don't even here people simply saying, "I want that." Well, I want that.
Consider a very simple example. Go down to the BMV/DMV/[whatever your local version is called]. Look at the wait time. You know the reason for that? The government is too damn small. If we hired more workers then the wait time would be smaller. Hire enough workers and there would be hardly any wait time at all. If we make government bigger, dealing with government will suck significantly less.
The same could be said of the SSA or HHS or pretty much any government agency (state or federal) you can think of. Do you like waiting in line? Unless you do, the answer is a bigger government. More workers to help you out means less time spent waiting for one to become available.
Not having to wait in line for hours on end is something I'd like to think that we can all get behind, and the solution is both simple and obvious: bigger government. Each of those workers is the government. Every time one is hired that makes the government bigger. Some people don't like that. They want the government to be smaller which means that we all have to wait in longer lines whenever it should happened that we need to deal with any part of the government.
That's a rather simple example that won't exactly change the world (although hiring more people would make the employment picture better for everyone) but it's illustrative. When it comes to the number of employees available to help the people waiting in line, smaller government makes things worse, bigger government makes things better. The idea that bigger is always worse is clearly false.
What about roads? After the stimulus there was more road construction than I ever saw before in my life, but there are so many other crappy roads and they still stuck and now the stimulus is over. Right now things are made even worse than normal because the congress refuses to pass a transportation bill which means that states don't know whether the money to finish a project will be there when they need it, so they're limiting themselves to small projects. But even if things were normal, we still wouldn't be taking the roads seriously. Nor the bridges roads traverse.
There are 143,889 deficient bridges around today. (Most are in use.) Know why? The government is too damned small.
In fairness, that number is an improvement. When I was originally made aware of this the number was 149,647. Hopefully the change was a result of fixing things rather than standing by while they collapsed. Let's assume it is. That means that more than three, almost four, percent of the problem has been solved. A little over 96% remains. Or, in other words, we need a government capable of doing 25 times that much work. Right now we don't even have a government capable of doing the 3% again since that progress was made under special circumstances that have since ended. Like I said, the government is too damn small.
I want a government that can fix this.
I want a government that is so vast that when I need to deal with it I don't have to sacrifice my day to waiting in line.
I want a government that is so vast that the roads are well paved.
I want a government so vast that the bridges are not deficient.
I want a government so vast that water mains are kept in good repair.
I want a government so vast that sewers and storm drains are too.
I want a government so vast that medicine and supplements are tested to make sure they're not going to kill me.
I want a government so vast that it can regulate the banks and make sure that they never pull that shit again.
I want a government so vast that it can do the same thing to other industries.
I want a government so vast that it can catch tax cheats.
I want a government so vast that it can make sure that in this country none go hungry.
I want a government so vast that it can make it so anyone who wants to go to college or university can do so without ending up in a mountain of debt.
I want a government so vast that it can ensure that none are unable to get healthcare.
I want a government so vast that it can jumpstart work on renewable domestic energy sources so that we're energy independent.
I want a government so vast that it can create the best education system on earth.
I want a government so vast that it can make it so our power grid does not suck.
I want a government so vast that dams are inspected.
I want a government so vast that it can stop businesses from pushing around people, instead of itself being pushed around by businesses.
I want a government so vast that it can do its fucking job.
I want big government.
Now two things need to be said, the first is that I do believe there are limits to what the scope of government should be. When government tells consenting adults what they can do in their bedroom, that's going too far. When the government decides that it is more qualified than women and their doctors to say what happens to those women's vaginas, that goes too far. When the government spies without warrants, that goes too far. When the government imprisons people without trial, that goes too far. There are definitely limits. Many more than I just listed.
But the reason those things are problems is not because they are examples of big government, but rather because they are examples of bad government. Bad government is, by definition, bad regardless of whether it is big or small. Size has nothing to do with it.
The other thing is that what I'm talking about is expensive. In many of those cases it requires a big government just because it requires more people to be in government (for example, more dam inspectors) but in all of those cases it's big government in that it requires a government that spends the money to do that.
It definitely would be taxing and spending. That's what government is. That's how it works. A government spends so that shit gets done. A government taxes so that the shit that gets done gets paid for. If you don't spend, nothing good happens. If you don't tax, you go into debt.
Good government involves taxing and spending. If it doesn't spend then it doesn't do its job since doing things costs money. If it doesn't tax then it gets deeper and deeper in debt. Tax and spend isn't an insult, it's an accurate description of how government works. It's like calling a dolphin a “swim and breathe” animal and expecting it to be insulted. No. That's how dolphins work. If they don't swim they don't accomplish much of anything and if they don't breathe they're not going to last very long.
I might have more sympathy if the people who were against “tax and spend” offered an alternative beyond “just spend” because spending without taxing in kind really isn't sustainable. If the Reagan years didn't teach them that, the Bush years should have. The debt incurred was immense.