Someone the other day asked in an e-mail why I had a problem with big government.
Where do I start?
Do any of us want a government that is so intrusive that it controls every aspect of the market, tries to completely control thought and behavior, and criminalizes victimless crimes that offend the state? Of course, you might want that only if it makes your views the correct ones and gives you the advantage in the marketplace.
Such an approach to government didn’t appear to work that well in a big place once upon a time called the USSR.
We need government. It’s a necessary evil. Government does things for the whole they can’t be done by the individual or at least those without the wherewithal of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or the Millionaires Club better known as the U.S. Senate and their cronies in Wall Street suites.
That runs the gamut from national defense, road systems, and public safety to public health issues such as clean water and sanitary sewer systems especially in developed areas. Sorry, but it’s highly unlikely that 312 million people can all dig their own wells, have their own outhouses or dispose of their garbage without creating a situation that effectively shortens all of our lives.
But “my rants” about big government - as the gentleman’s e-mailing from Berkeley of all places called them - aren’t as much about the idea of government being big as it is about it being big, stupid, intrusive, and ineffective.
If one division of Apple did something that undermined the effectiveness of another division at the firm changes would be made quickly. You don’t stay nimble and deliver what an ever changing consumer marketplace wants by building a culture that prizes qualities such as entrenchment, making it difficult for customers to use your product, or one that provides a “product” that no one wants.
Yes, government is not a business and you don’t want them to simply worry about the “profitable” segment of the market - the people who don’t need safety nets and no one else.
But there is a heck of a big difference between a 140-pound slug and a 140-pound cheetah.
Government - especially at the state and federal levels - has taken on the characteristics of a 400-pound heart patient with emphysema. Lethargic would be an upgrade.
Being deliberate and fair is no more essential than being effective, nimble, and responsive.
Government as it is now structured is behind the curve on dealing with the legal, societal, ethical and criminal ramifications of everything from the social media to bio-tech.
The culture of government needs to evolve not the mission.
Yet the response of government as technology has changed our world and shrunk the global economy into 24-hour delivery is to either throw cement weights around the private sector or to gleefully abandon any effort to make new technology play by the same basic rules they require of old technology whether it is taxation, regulation, or even labor and pay practices.
It is OK for web-based startups to violate the nuances of labor laws because one mustn’t slow down innovation. But here’s the rub. Both new technology and old technology - web based versus brick and mortar - all are about the same thing which is making a profit.
Why should old school business, so to speak, have to labor under different taxation and labor rules just because government moves so slowly? And what about the “fairness” thing that defenders of “big” government often argue is the purpose of regulations? Why do the young Turks get a “fairer” shake in the marketplace with less restraints put on them by the government compared to so-called old commerce?
The easy answer - and probably the one that is most correct - is old commerce are easier targets.
It takes a bit of initiative to stay on top of rapidly changing new commerce. It is so much easier to just keep burdening old commerce. In other words, it is easier to catch a turtle and to contain it than someone driving a Maserati at top seed.
The end result is government in a very big sense has evolved into an institution that decides winners and losers by the manner it regulates, enforces, and taxes.
And the winner and loser thing isn’t just limited to business. It affects everyone whether it is imposing property rules and then being selective in enforcement or whether it is allowing a person to reduce their tax liability by giving them an electric car credit which essentially means those who can’t afford a $50,000 car are subsidizing their purchase.
No problem with big government per se. Big problem with big government that is intrusive and stupid.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.