Archive for April 23rd, 2013

A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.  –  Barry Goldwater

The Auctioneer by Norman Rockwell (1922)I will never cease to be amazed at the inability of statists to recognize that the expansion of government will never stop until it is somehow forced to.  Every year the American governmental machine adds new employees, new “mandates”, hundreds of new laws and thousands of new regulations (all with the force of law and most with criminal penalties).  Government now consumes approximately 40% of the gross domestic product, and given that any decreases have been both minor and short-lived there is little reason to believe it will not exceed half within the lifetimes of most of y’all reading this.  Meanwhile, the scope of government reach has also increased, though at a much higher rate; modern governments interfere in their citizens’ lives to a vastly greater extent than at any time in history, and in some countries (the US especially) this is more or less a one-way ratchet because only a miniscule fraction of laws enacted, no matter how odious or tyrannical, are ever repealed.  Once a legal precedent is established it provides a base for still more laws, and so the mound continues to grow year after year, getting taller and wider until some irresistible force levels it or (more likely) it collapses of its own weight.  Early last month, an article by A. Barton Hinkle described it this way:

…Call it the auctioneer effect.  Having approved a new law or program to address a circumstance in one year, politicians confront a dilemma in subsequent years…the problem does not disappear.  It wouldn’t do to conclude that, since previous laws and programs have failed, perhaps the problem lies beyond government’s ability to solve.  Answer:  Write more laws and fund more programs!  As in a genuine auction, the winner is the pol who can propose the most.  You can see the auctioneer effect all over the place.  You can see it in public education, where ever-increasing expenditures produce flat test scores, which are then met with calls for even more spending.  You can see it in the war on poverty, which now boasts 126 separate means-tested programs at the federal level alone.  You can see it in gun control, where “high-capacity” once referred to 20- or 30-round magazines but now applies…to those holding as few as eight.  And you can really see it in the war on crime, in which politicians seek to out-Roy Bean one another by perpetually ratcheting down thresholds for offenses – and perpetually ratcheting up penalties for same…

melee weaponsOf course, those who believe in the magical power of government to perform virtually any task with meat cleavers, sledgehammers, steamrollers and guns don’t see this as a problem, but they forget that once a tool or weapon is added to the governmental arsenal there is absolutely nothing to stop others from using it for their own purposes:

…Because they cannot ban abortion outright, conservative politicians have tried to discourage it in heavy-handed and sometimes humiliating ways.  Thirty-four states impose regulations specific to abortion providers; 35 require counseling, and 26 impose waiting periods.  Eight…now require women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound.  Last year [Virginia] lawmakers…drew national scorn by proposing…an invasive transvaginal ultrasound…then [last month]…the Indiana Senate approved a bill to require…transvaginal ultrasound…[and demand] that establishments dispensing pills such as RU-486 meet the same construction standards as those performing surgical abortions…

Texas saw that and raised the standards to those for an ambulatory surgical center, a move that will close 38 of the 44 clinics in the state.  Then at the end of March, North Dakota raised that still further by requiring an abortionist to be a doctor with hospital admitting privileges; another measure passed at the same time banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected (possibly as early as six weeks, when many women are just beginning to realize that they’re pregnant).  Of course, this is old hat for sex workers; countries where sex work is legal often try to pass so many ridiculous restrictions that it’s very difficult to actually work within the law, and the newest “sex trafficking” laws define “prostitution” and “coercion” so broadly, at least a third of the population could be charged with “trafficking” and threatened with decades in prison and lifelong “sex offender” registration.  This isn’t a joke, y’all; it’s not a “fallacy”, or “alarmism”, or “anti-government propaganda”.  This is real, and happening in every area of government.  When you arm “your” politicians to give you the goodies you want and to oppress your enemies, you inevitably arm “their” politicians to give them the goodies they want and to oppress their enemies…and the only ones who win are the politicians.

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