Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where Does Big Government Come From?

I've been puzzling over this for a while now, and while I can't yet prove it, I think I have figured out part of the reason that government has grown to the extent it has, and how we let it happen.  I'm just scratching thoughts down here so I don't lose them, but I'd love to have a ton of comments on this one, to see whether I'm totally off base.

We talk about how we've lost the "community" aspect to our lives - how we don't know our neighbors and so on.  But why is that?  Could it be due to any of the following?

The double-income family phenomenon is likely making more families independent than ever before.  Rather than the historical multi-generational living arrangements, families are more likely now to be found living in completely separate units from other family members, and even in completely separate states.

The rise in the number of jobs a typical person has in a lifetime reflects more mobility in terms of moving to a new job.  It used to be that a person was more likely to do one thing, or work for one company, over his lifetime.  Whether a farmer or a factory worker, one typically signed on for the duration.  Studies place the number of jobs an average person works in a lifetime at something like 10 or 11 now.  Is that because companies feel more free to hire and fire?  Is it because a two-income family depends less on both people working?

Housing value bubbles could have spurred more families to "move up" in house.  As rising prices allowed homeowners to realize wealth by selling a large asset, the proceeds could then be used as a down payment on a larger home.  This means people could have moved out of established neighborhoods into newer, less settled subdivisions.

More education raised a child's potential standard of living far above his parents.  The G.I. Bill, Pell Grants and the student loan programs helped vast numbers of people attend colleges and universities, some of whom were the first in their families to attend college.  But that's not all - compulsory K-12 education (or as much of it as a district could force a child to attend) changed education entirely.  Children of farmers would not have been expected in prior generations to complete schooling past 8th grade, for example.  Now the national expectation is that all children will attend school through high school, and there are many initiatives to push those expectations upwards, stressing a college education for all students.  At any rate, more opportunity for education among poorer families meant that their children could easily outstrip their earning power, particularly if a young couple were both college-educated and worked.  No need to stay and live in the old neighborhood, then; just go back occasionally to visit the folks.

The focus on education outstripped the focus on a work ethic.  With more students continuing their education beyond a bachelor's degree and staying in school longer, the need to work (unless to make up gaps in the student loans or scholarships, or for drinking money) has been all but done away with.  This along with easy credit could be responsible for people making bad money decisions and having difficulty tying the value of "stuff" to the hours they work.

 A population with fewer ties to place feels less responsible for their places.  People who move around a lot develop fewer ties to the places they live, and thus less civic engagement and less community involvement.  Whereas small town living meant the neighbors knew all your business, it also meant they could more easily identify each others' needs.  A disconnected and transitory populace is far less likely to see a problem and say "I need to do something about that" and far more likely to say "SOMEBODY needs to do something about that" and then delegate the problem to a government entity.

So that's what I came up with - the less of a community we find where we are, the more likely we are to see a big government solution for everything.  Make sense?  What am I leaving out?  Thoughts?


  1. The common thread in much of what you say is the indirect action of currency destruction that the Federal Reserve does on purpose. Keynes talks about it in the Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919):

    "Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. – As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery." [...]

    "Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose."

    Another observation is that I wish state's powers were more clearly articulated in The Constitution. Jefferson definitely thought they were crucial to stall the encroachment of a federal government.

    Just my two cents. Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. I think another part of it is that children are going to government schools to get "educated", but those schools teach kids that government is necessary to maintain full employment by stepping in when the free market is lacking, that bubbles are inherent to capitalism and the Federal Reserve is necessary to smooth out the economic cycle, that unregulated industry leads to slave labor and death, etc. I learned all of those things in school and I had to educate myself on my own time in order to realize just how wrong they are. Needless to say, most people don't do that.

    I'd say that this type of education started a few generations ago and by now everybody is thoroughly brainwashed. I think the effects you're talking about have allowed kids to be brainwashed without having a community of people to steer them back to sanity. Every time I overhear a conversation at work relating to economics or politics, the people seem so lost. I want to step in and make them question the bull#@%$ they think they know, but it's really not appropriate at work and people have a tendency to get offended. Even if the ideas aren't their own in the first place, they feel that they are, because they've believed them for so long. We're a generation of people brainwashed to believe that government is there to save us from ourselves.

    That, coupled with this massive campaign to get people to vote and "make a difference" (without any mention of getting educated before you play with government guns) has created a mob of know-nothing idiots who proudly step into the ballot box and mindlessly reflect their poor education.

  3. I would agree with all of your points. I would add one other. We have become a godless society. A people that turns against the creator that taught them freedom and liberty will fall into tyranny and bondage.

  4. Excellent. Much of this I already knew. Some I suspected. And some enlightened me.