Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Big Government Is the Problem, Not the Solution

Sometimes people ask why conservatives don't think much of big, overbearing, bureaucratic government (I guess putting the question this way pretty much answers it). Part of the reason, of course, is that we too often read things like these:
Congressman Anthony Weiner who resigned in disgrace will reap about one million dollars of your and my money in pension and benefits.

A kid's lemonade stand was shut down and the parents were fined $500 because they didn't have a permit. They were selling lemonade to raise money for pediatric cancer.

A man was ticketed by authorities for directing traffic when a traffic light malfunctioned and police didn't show up. The man got traffic moving but was fined by police when they finally arrived. After citing the man the cops left, and the snarled traffic piled up again.
You read this sort of thing everyday and you can't help but think that ladling on more rules and regulations and hiring more bureaucrats to staff more wasteful bureaucracies will only make these sorts of stories more common and more aggravating.

Government rules and regulations have the effect of sapping citizens of their initiative and enterprise. People grow reluctant to take it upon themselves to do anything that they see needs to be done for fear of being fined or sued. Under an overweening government we become a nation of emasculated sheep.

Speaking of big government Jonah Goldberg has an amusing piece at NationalReview.com in which he notes the unintended irony in the MSNBC "Lean Forward" ads that they've been running for the past couple of months.

One of the ads has Rachel Maddow standing at the Hoover Dam lamenting the fact that too many people think the days when we could build something like this are behind us, and that we're no longer a great nation because we no longer undertake great projects. Goldberg chuckles at this since the reason we would not and could not build a Hoover Dam today is precisely because progressives like Ms. Maddow would never allow it:
The reason the ad is so funny is that nobody thinks liberals such as Maddow would support anything like the Hoover Dam today. The Hoover Dam is a marvel. But by today’s green standards, it is a crime against nature. If you tried to build it, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace would be in court tomorrow blocking it, with Ms. Maddow cheering them on.

Indeed, look at all the activists attacking the proposed construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to the Texas coast. It would create thousands of construction jobs and yet liberals oppose it for the usual petrophobic reasons. Ironically, liberals love building highways and bridges, but loathe making it affordable to drive on them.

This is just a small example of the Catch-22 liberalism has found itself in. The Left yearns to “go big” but it wants to do so through the extremely narrow routes it has created for itself. They say government must rush into this economic crisis like firemen into a burning building. But they also don’t want to lighten the useless baggage the firemen must carry or remove the Byzantine obstacle course they’ve decreed the figurative firefighters must run through before getting to work.
Goldberg borrows Jonathan Rauch’s term Demosclerosis to describe the shackles that liberals like Maddow in the Democratic party have placed on those who would do great things. A nation that suffers from Demosclerosis is a nation:
whose first responders to Hurricane Katrina have to undergo sensitivity training before they can save people from drowning and 'shovel-ready' green jobs require months of 'prevailing wage' compliance paper-pushing and are too expensive anyway. Boston’s Big Dig took two decades to build; the far more ambitious Hoover Dam, which Maddow and company love, took four years.
These MSNBC ads really are amusing. Try to imagine, say, building the transcontinental railroad under the regulatory conditions that prevail today. The foul smoke belched out by coal-burning steam engines, the threat to wildlife posed by those steam engines barreling down the tracks, the scars inflicted on the scenic west by construction crews, the cheap non-union labor that was employed, the hazardous conditions the workers endured, and many more insufferable insults to liberal sensibilities would guarantee that such a project would never get off the ground. The sorts of bureaucracies that make the progressive heart pound would stop such a project before it ever got started, and Ms. Maddow wonders why we can't build stuff any more.

Big government makes its people small and, as John Stuart Mill said, with small people no big thing can be accomplished. According to a Heritage Foundation report the Obama administration has, since taking office, implemented or proposed 75 new major regulations, costing potential employers 38 billion dollars annually. If Ms. Maddow really wants to see innovation unleashed and great projects undertaken she should use her podium at MSNBC to tell Mr. Obama to get his government off our backs and out of the way.