November 10th, 2009
“Kill the bill, kill the bill” the crowds on the capital hill chanted. Any day of the week, any week of the year, you can ask any hard working American – do you want a bigger government? The unanimous answer will be no. None of us want a bigger government just for the sake of a bigger government. But ask the people – do you want to let the wheeling dealing scheming conmen entice hard working Americans (or the local Canadians!) into buying financial instruments (or houses!) that they cannot afford (or if they can, definitely wont be in exactly 1095 days from closing)? Or that, do you want the current economic crisis to take away the prospect of education (or healthcare) from a child whose parents may have lost a job? Aah, it is then that the answer changes to something like, “um, no, govt should probably do something about it”.
You are damn right Joe – government should do something about it.
Thus, the question that should be asked is not about government spending or tax cuts or fiscal deficit, rather the debate has to be on pros and cons of a specific proposal. Anytime a politician offers you a new tax – we should be sure to ask “what is it going to get us in return?”. Ditto for tax cut – “Thanks a lot pres, but can you tell what does that mean in terms of facilities that are going to go away?”.
Years ago when I moved to the US (and years later I heard the French president reiterate that we are all Americans now), I was most surprised to see the size of the American government. A bulky school system – thousands of schools and hundreds of universities. A shiny USPS. Ultra defense spending. Astronomical space agency. All that was (and continues to be) public agencies, right here in the bastion of Capitalism. Then it dawned on me that capitalism is what you define it to be. Facilities that the people are comfortable with (schools, universities, mail trucks) are not the facilities anyone is going to give up that easily (or should). True, the US act of 1970 made the USPS into a semi independent agency that is now revenue neutral, but still it didn’t consider it right to privatize or close it. Why? Because there are somethings you may not want to trust a private company to do (such as creating mailers for visually impaired people).
It even makes sense not to try to classify a nation as capitalist or socialist at all. At what point do cross over from UK to Sweden? Really, there is no solid line (just miles and miles of the Norwegian sea, but I digress). Rather, it makes sense to only define a capitalism index for each country. That will need to be defined carefully however, and I am not going to hazard a definition this very moment. I know I have breached this topic earlier, but perhaps this time I will get more ideas and start working on an actual economics concept. (Really, that will be some day – my computer science doctorate adviser will be well vindicated – “I always knew that Amrinder guy was only trouble”.)