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Government is not going away

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In an interview, Jonathan Rauch says,

When you get right down to it, there doesn't seem to be really much of a constituency in this country for reducing the size of government in painful or unpleasant ways. Even Barry Goldwater, when he ran for president, announced that he wouldn't cut any farm subsidies, for example.

Government is an enormous ecosystem. It is, in its way, as decentralized and unmanageable as the ecosystem out there in nature. You can change the input and you'll get some change in the output, but if I've learned one thing in 25 years in Washington, it's that there far too many interests and actors for any politician to do more than work the margins. But working the margins is very, very important.

via Tyler Cowen.

Rauch refers back to this piece from ten years ago.

For the viper pit of squabbling interest groups is us. There is no hidden consensus out there waiting to be plucked down by a visionary or a healer. Absent such a consensus, reform efforts such as Gingrich's (or Clinton's, in the 1994 health effort) are inevitably polarizing, and so are swatted down by the public as "extreme." Afraid of causing such a polarization, politicians discuss reform in only the vaguest terms, and so an electoral mandate for concrete change is rarely delivered.

The interview also refers to a piece that puts Rauch in the Pigou Club.

the most efficient way to get started is also the simplest, albeit not the easiest politically: tax carbon emissions. "At around $30 per ton of CO2 over a 25-year horizon, experts seem to think this is the kind of price that will encourage the kind of technologies that are necessary," says Billy Pizer, an environmental economist at Resources for the Future, a Washington think tank. That would translate into an additional 27 cents or so on a gallon of gasoline and about a 20 percent increase in residential electricity bills (more like 34 percent for industrial users). Unpleasant, but hardly radical. Perfectly do-able, in fact.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

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The author at Economic Investigations in a related article titled News of the World #32 writes:
    City dweller, successful fella Thought to himself oops I’ve got a lot of money I’m caught in a rat race terminally I’m a professional cynic but my heart’s not in it I’m paying the price of living life at the limit Caught u... [Tracked on April 27, 2007 2:35 PM]
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shamus writes:

There's probably some critical mass beyond which government can only grow and never shrink.

History implies that politicians can probably only deliver one major reform every decade or so - sometimes not even that. The choice of this major reform is what democracy is about (after fulfilling its major purpose, which is to remove dysfunctional governments).

Government wll significantly shrink if and when the public decides that this is the major priority for public policy.

Matt writes:

Federal government comprises 18-25% of the economy, hitting the 25% level when conservatives are in power.

Under a global warming scenario, a 25% federal government will toast us.

Matt G writes:

Is it necessary to complain about the government's involvment in our nation today? What "problems" has a large central government, kept under control by the people and checks & balances, caused us as a nation? I was under the impression that since the days of the depression it was understood that if the people did not have the government, this country would not survive. Now on occasion our government may go awry but once again that is what our people are for, to point it out. From the depression to the patriot act we must ask ourselves, how important is a strong central government, in the interests of our country's well being?

Before the depression the people want a nation run by and fixed by the people, as the depression sank in opinions quickly changed and our nation suddenly relied on our government for success. Now in the new millenium, take for example 9/11. After the clinton era the idea of a less-involved government and free open trading by the people (NAFTA) gives way to the people demanding to be defended and run by a strong central government that will take care of them. Think about it, how important in the government in not only our history but our everyday lives?

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