An Army of Dicks

Former Texas congressman turned right-wing activist, lobbyist and now through his “FreedomWorks” organization, major funder of the insurgent Tea Party movement, Dick Armey whips up a crowd of disenfranchised rubes at CPAC with an antagonistic speech railing against President Obama.

To all of these people that vehemently resent so-called “big government” I have a simple proposal: immediately stop utilizing any and all government programs.

Quit driving on our public highways and roads for starters. Turn off your municipal water supply and drill your own well to obtain water. Turn off all the power to your house because that likely comes from a crown corporation or has financial linkages to the nefarious government. Cease and desist from using the Internet, because that was developed by the government. Oh, and stop watching TV because we own the airwaves and simply lease them to private broadcasters. If you need medical treatment, go to a private clinic or fly to the USA (although that might be difficult as the airports themselves are run by quasi-private agencies). If your home is broken into, call Brinks or some private security firm to come to the rescue. Likewise, if your house catches on fire or better yet, grab a hose and put it out yourself. Oh wait… you can’t do that because the water is supplied by the government.

I’m being facetious, of course, but you get the idea. Hey, I’m not a fan of “big government” or bureaucracy either, but the fact of the matter is that despite all of its flaws, it provides the infrastructure that enables our quality of life to exist. Simply calling for an end to government “interference” is ridiculous unless such demands are backed up with solid, comprehensive and practical proposals for alternative methods of public service delivery.

As for the nub of Armey’s grievance about “income redistribution” — well, what’s so wrong with that? In countries such as the USA, Canada and the UK where the economic divide between the rich and the poor is now so abject as to be completely ludicrous and the “middle-class” is rapidly becoming an endangered species, is it really such an abhorrent idea to “spread the wealth”? And think about that for a bit… substitute the expression “spread the wealth” for “income redistribution” and see if the arguments maintain the same validity.

19 Comments

Filed under Progressivism, Right-Wing Haters

19 responses to “An Army of Dicks

  1. It seems that you misunderstand what objections to big government actually entail.

    Objections to big government don’t include expenditures such as highways, police and emergency services, water safety, or defense.

    In the United States (and on a smaller basis here in Canada), objections to big government do include health care. I personally disagree with Canadians who share that particular objection, but at the very least one can respect the argument.

  2. I might respect the argument more if it was articulated better. As it is however, it’s more just a blanket condemnation combined with inchoate rage, so I felt entirely justified to respond in a facetious manner.

    I’m all for smarter, leaner, more efficient and effective government… and when someone proposes actual methods to achieve those objectives I’ll be right behind them 100%.

    Just yelling and screaming about the current system or demonizing the present leadership however is boring and pointless. Great that these folks want to let off steam, but they’re quite deficient when it comes to offering positive solutions…

  3. Martin

    Git the guvrnmint out of my medicare!

    What would be nice is if these “rubes” realised that, relative to most wealthy countries, they have about as little government interference in their lives as possible.

    …and maybe they should think of income redistribution as “anti-revolution” insurance, which was pretty much Bismarck’s prespective. Reduces bread riots and keeps heads off pikes, etc.

  4. Government is annoying and bothersome at times, there’s no question about that, but it’s largely the creation of our own desires. Nothing illustrates this better than the tax code, that’s now almost impossible complex. And why? Because countless “special interests” (i.e., you or me in certain circumstances) have lobbied for preferential treatment and all manner of exemptions. For every ridiculous statute on the books, it can be traced back to the initiatives of some group or other that pressured authorities in power for it to be enacted. To simply rail against “the government” is absurd because, as Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

  5. I’m all for smarter, leaner, more efficient and effective government… and when someone proposes actual methods to achieve those objectives I’ll be right behind them 100%.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but we can already see that you haven’t — numerous times over.

  6. Care to elaborate? Or is it just easier (and lazier) to make a baseless allegation…

  7. Sparky

    It seems that Patrick once again is applying his view on everyone elses–
    It seems that you misunderstand what objections to big government actually entail.

    Objections to big government don’t include expenditures such as highways, police and emergency services, water safety, or defense.

    Patrick’s objections to big gov’t may not include the above expenditures…
    Other people tirades against big gov’t aren’t as nuanced and are usually based on the premise of ‘I don’t like the gov’t doing (or ‘my tax dollars funding’) ‘X” and they base their entire rant against the gov’t on that ‘X’ (whatever that ‘X’ is…)
    X, to people other than Patrick, may not be limited to infrastructure or defense.
    I’ve heard people complain that the gov’t should stay out of education, gun ownership, marriage (the bedroom)–whatever happens to stick in their craw that particular day.
    RT’s point is pretty much dead-on. People that wish gov’t take a back seat to this ‘personal freedom’ really have to analyze what they’re wishing for. It’s called ‘thinking thru the problem’ and, in the end, if these people started to think about what they’re actually saying, perhaps they’d change their tune a little.
    I’m with RT, gov’t is not perfect. However, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater…

  8. Feyenoord

    “As for the nub of Armey’s grievance about “income redistribution” — well, what’s so wrong with that?”

    We are all for help for the unemployed and as well as the working poor. My cousin just lost his job and will be on EI for the first time of his life.
    Too much redistribution can ultimately hurt tax revenues, it destroys all incentive for earning more income. Its socialism, and socialism does not work.
    It never has and never will. It runs contrary to human nature.

  9. Feyenoord — You’re sort of mixing things up there. EI is an insurance scheme whereby people pay into it in the hopes of never having to claim benefits, so it’s not really a means of income redistribution per se.

    As for “helping the working poor” — you do realize that the fact we now have such a class of people in our society these days is itself a self-evident recognition of how tragically broken our version of capitalism has become.

    Too much redistribution can ultimately hurt tax revenues, it destroys all incentive for earning more income. Its socialism, and socialism does not work.

    How much is “too much” in this context? Nobody is taking everything from “the rich” and simply larding it onto “the poor” in willy-nilly fashion — it’s more a question of basic equity and fairness. In a scenario where there’s a more balanced distribution of income tax, revenues actually rise, not fall, and everyone benefits. A rising tide lifts all boats, as Shakespeare said.

  10. Sparky — I don’t really know what PR is alluding to because I want efficiency and cost containment when it comes to the delivery of public services. I hate waste, fraud and meandering bureaucratic fuckitude as much as the next person. Libs and progressives have been far too complacent and tolerant of this sort of behaviour for far too long, but as you said, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  11. Actually, the U.S. had the greatest “income redistribution” in the prosperous 1950s when the marginal tax rate for earnings over $400,000 were a whopping 91%. Even with these high personal and corporate tax rates and a hell of a lot of “socialism”, the economy boomed. Paul Krugman called this the Great Compression where it was fairly difficult to be super rich. Both Republicans and Democrats thought the social benefits were worth the cost but mostly differed on the details. So all the sturm and drang over letting the Bush tax cuts expire and raising corporate and banking tax rates to where they were during the Reagan Administration is a bit silly.

    See: American Marginal Tax Rate history

    The problem with the protests against “Big Government” are that these people are always against the Big Government that doesn’t specifically benefit them directly. Ask these if they want the FDA, FCC, FAA, CDC, NIH or DHS to be abolished and (once you explain what they do) the answer is “no”. If you ask whether the U.S. should reduce spending on the military (which accounts for 50% of federal spending) to levels closer to Russia, China or Europe the answer is also “no”. Ask them if they want their Social Security and Medicare benefits ended and the answer is “no” as well. Well that’s most of the U.S. federal government guys. You can eliminate the rest (and deal with the social consequences of no universal compulsory primary and secondary education and all the rest), but you won’t see much savings on your individual tax bill because in percentage terms, the amounts are fairly small.

    Sure. The government is wasteful and we need to do what we can to reduce that. The private sector is also wasteful, because people are wasteful. But the Tea Party goal to take the U.S. government back to what is explicitly designated in the Constitution is absurd. That only worked in 1790s society. And none of us what to live in a society of subsistence farmers whose average lifespan was 39.

  12. Ottlib

    Many of these folks who demand smaller governments are also the same folks who want governments to outlaw all things anathema to social conservatives.

    I find it bass ackwards that many of these people want citizens to have greater control over their pocketbooks but at the same time they want to take the control of their own bodies away from them, or deny two people who love each other the right to marry because they are the same gender, or throw someone in prison for the rest of their life just for smoking a little weed.

    That last point could be a case study. If these people really want to reduce the size of government legalize drugs. You would reduce the need for a half-a-dozen large bureaucratic organizations, save billions that is now being spent on a pointless “war” and allow for greater freedom for all citizens.

  13. Dan — Well said. Brilliantly so, in fact.

  14. Ottlib — Indeed. The hypocritical double-standards of “social conservatives” that want to engineer society according to their supposedly God-given moral code is beyond laughable.

    Personally, I want to put the “libertarian” sentiment back into Liberal politics — where it belongs!

  15. Gayle

    I always wonder why Canadians feel the need to compare our tax rate to the USA?

    I believe personal income taxes in our country are comperable to most European countries. I know when I worked in the UK my taxes were probably higher there than here. Australia has a huge tax rate. Of course, the services that were available in the UK were much greater than here. I will never forget breaking my tooth and learning that my dental care was covered under National Health.

    The problem with comparing us to the USA is that we have a much smaller population, and a much larger country. That means we have a smaller tax base and require more money for infrastructure spending.

  16. Gayle

    OT but I wanted to compliment the photo of the Inner Harbour. Did you take that? I admit to being a total sucker for the way the leg buildings are lit up at night. It is so beautiful. Must cost you a lot in taxes though! :)

  17. hemmingforddogblog

    I think Patrick needs to read the following:

    http://faultline.org/index.php/site/item/incendiary/

  18. jkg

    I think the most unsettling thing is that such tendencies that we see down South are creeping up here.

    For whatever reason, the sacred cow is that the private sector can never be wasteful, which is a farce, but the concession usually is that they would ultimately fail should they continue their wasteful spending. However, since I do study companies before I invest them, I am amazed at the level of waste some of these companies maintain yet still post profits because they either lobby or cut costs in areas where there is very little waste. For example, I was watching a show after the super bowl called “Undercover Boss” pretty bad show, but it featured the CEO of Waste Management going out into the front line. He was aghast at the fact that his productivity ‘targets’ were forcing frontline female workers to find other ways to go to the washroom, since they could never take a break. Multinationals also are very well known for this because they can just simply ramp up sales and marketing in other markets without having to really zero in on cost cutting measures.

    Thus, the whole “voting with your dollars” is very specious, especially when consumers (especially those who espouse such thinking) are easily manipulated by very, and I mean very, sophisticated advertising and marketing. Large ad shops make it a point to study psychology in order to take advantage of cognitive heuristics and other biases. Couple that with that fact that activist shareholders are largely frowned upon (I mean, god forbid shareholders should have a say wrt executive compensation), and you get a system that is hardly better than what detractors of government describe.

  19. For whatever reason, the sacred cow is that the private sector can never be wasteful, which is a farce, but the concession usually is that they would ultimately fail should they continue their wasteful spending.

    This goes to the heart of my criticism of libertarianism in the first place. It assumes that companies and customers will always act rationally and that somehow rugged individualism will lead to more prosperity and freedom instead of just another form of even deeper oppression.

    In their magical world in the absence of governmental regulation, everyone will always act ethically and rationally, and if they don’t, they will fail. Prescription drug companies will never make unsubstantiated claims or sell drugs that haven’t been thoroughly tested and declared safe like the do in unregulated Russia. Pharmacies will never substitute chalk for medication like they do in unregulated Kenya. Dairy producers will never put melenine in milk like they did in unregulated China. And if they do and a few people die, well too bad for them, the only important thing is that the company will fail (and even if this happens, somehow they couldn’t come back under another name and do exactly the same thing.)

    In this magical world, only the most innovative and efficient companies will grow and prosper and somehow they would rise to new levels of prosperity even if they have to take on the full cost for the roads, airports and ports needed to ship their products. There would be no such thing as monopolies or oligopolies that can crush better performing or more innovative companies through economies-of-scale, hostile takeovers or even legal means (like the infinite extension of patents). In the absence of public schools, paying the full cost of an education out of pocket will be cheap and easy and only the best schools will survive. Same will be true for Social Security and health insurance.

    In their magical world, EVERYTHING is a consumer item, like a TV, and everyone always acts rationally and thinks in their long term best interest. But in the real world libertarian societies have been a disaster because human nature doesn’t work that way. You need government to fill in the gaps and provide services to the population which are universal in scope and may be unprofitable, like public education, infrastructure, security and healthcare. You need government to ensure that people act ethically and honestly.

    I’m all for a mixed economy. I don’t want government telling the restaurant on the corner what to serve on the menu. But I DO want government to ensure that this restaurant is clean, safe for its workers and is serving food that won’t kill me. I don’t want government telling a TV manufacturer how many TVs to make in a given year but I DO want government to ensure that the TV won’t burn my house down.

    This is every bit as unrealistic as communism was. It ignores human and social behaviour. It is fantasy, not reality based.

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