Monday, January 26, 2009

Isn't Gamma From Iceland?

Gamma earlier posted a comment along the lines of, "There is no good government but smaller government." This editorial does a good job of responding. There is always a problem when you speak in absolutes, and Gamma, while your statement may have been true at some point, I don't think that is the present case. Obama says you can fix goverment, and we have no other choice but to believe him. Otherwise, I think many of your improbables become that much more likely.


friedmanite said...

Interesting article. He is right about focusing on limiting the government's powers to what is necessary and achievable.

However, I disagree with how he characterizes "small" government. In general, the term small government usually means limited government. If you limit the powers of the government, you inherently limit the size of the government.

Any government that serves a country the size of the United States would never be "small" in absolute terms. But a limited government, following the powers decreed by the Constitution, would definitely be smaller than what we have today.

GammaBoy said...

I found that column really confusing. While I agreed with some of the stuff he said - particularly valuing his link to classic European liberalism and his anguish at the current state of the Republican party, I had trouble with the central theme...

They have come to worship small government and have turned their backs on limited government.

His distinction between small and limited is dumb. But Friedmanite covered that fully.

Aztec Tomb said...

Both friedmanite's and GB's comments provide perfect illustrations for Edward's thesis: most conservatives today confuse small government with limited government. The distinction is not "dumb;" rather it's subtle and worthy of thoughtful consideration.

Take, for example, the House minority leadership's initial reaction to the bailout package - they focused on the bottom line. The reasoning is, any bill this large has got to be bad for the American people. Edwards would appear to suggest a different debate: what is the government's role in this crisis and what should it be prohibited from doing. While the ultimate conclusion from such an inquiry may end up being that the Dem's bill is too large, the quality and type of analysis needed to reach that point is much more rigorous when examining the issue through a limited government prism rather than through small government blinders.

GammaBoy said...


I'm not against a "large" government when it is fulfilling its "limited" roles. For example, WWII would qualify as an enterprise that fell within the limited role and required the creation of a huge bureaucracy to manage the effort. But presumably the bureaucracy was temporary, existing until the effort was over.

In most other cases, there is no need for larger government unless the government is expanding its role. So rallying against larger government as a proxy for more activist government is reasonable.

My problems with the bailout are myriad, but certainly the government is intervening in countless ways that I think are beyond its ideal scope. I can't speak for the House minority leadership (nor do they speak for me, thank you), but for me the bailout is bad even at a smaller price tag. The current price tag just makes it that much more egregious.