Quotulatiousness

February 26, 2012

The Freeman: An open letter to statists everywhere

Filed under: Economics, Government, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:09

In a posting from twelve years ago, Lawrence W. Reed has some questions he’d like statists to answer:

You clever guys are always coming up with new schemes for government to do this or that, to address this issue or solve that problem, or fill some need somewhere. You get us limited-government people bogged down in the minutiae of how your proposed programs are likely to work (or not work), and while we’re doing the technical homework you seldom do, you demonize us as heartless number crunchers who don’t care about people.

Sometimes we all get so caught up in the particulars that we ignore the big picture. I propose that we step back for a moment. Put aside your endless list of things for government to do and focus on the whole package. I need some thoughtful answers to some questions that maybe, just maybe, you’ve never thought much about because you’ve been too wrapped up in the program du jour.

At the start of the 1900s, government at all levels in America claimed about 5 percent of personal income. A hundred years later, it takes more than 40 percent — up by a factor of eight. So my first questions to you are these: Why is this not enough? How much do you want? Fifty percent? Seventy percent? Do you want all of it? To what extent do you believe a person is entitled to what he (or she) has earned?

[. . .]

This raises a whole series of related questions about how you see the nature of government and what you’ve learned, if anything, from our collective experiences with it. I see the ideal government as America’s founders did — in Washington’s words, a “dangerous servant” employing legalized force for the purpose of preserving individual liberties. As such, it is charged with deterring violence and fraud and keeping itself small, limited, and efficient. How can you profess allegiance to peace and nonviolence and at the same time call for so much forcible redistribution?

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