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What We’re Talking About When We Talk About Big Government

Behold: the structure of redundancy, stupidity, and unconstitutional power the 100-year fog of leftism has created.

by
David Steinberg

Bio

March 7, 2011 - 12:00 am
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Last week’s largest domestic, non-security focused storyline left the public consciousness without significant — or sufficient — spotlighting. The General Accountability Office, or GAO, found a massive amount of overlapping and even duplicative programs amongst federal agencies. The GAO did not release a figure regarding the total amount of such waste, but Senator Tom Coburn — who pushed for the report to be conducted — estimated that the report identified between $100 billion and $200 billion in redundancy. Coburn’s figure does not include spending that is neither duplicative nor overlapping but simply ridiculous, as judged by rational men, and as such the actual figure of federal program waste is quite more disgusting.

Conservatives — Originalists — speak of Big Government always: an aversion to it is deservedly the driving intellectual thesis behind conservatism. We despise Big Government, more than anything, and I can’t emphasize strongly enough that I don’t believe the left has any clue why. They have theories about guns and fear, psychological weakness, bigotry, and the like, and these are all weak arguments against Big Government, which makes them easy to dismiss and continue to be a leftist. They are not, of course, our arguments. There is a disconnect between what we say, what we mean when we protest Big Government and what we are thought to mean by our political opposition.

Fighting Big Government is not just about Don’t Tread on Me, although it is much about that; it is not just about national security, though it is fractionally about that. Perhaps we can transmit a better explanation via this GAO report and the below examination of the actual agencies of our current government, or I hope we can, and then I’d like to ask a question of the non-conservatives, because conservatives also do not understand a key plank of the left and the West would benefit from a clear answer.

The Federal Highway Administration

A healthy nation requires public roads for ease of commerce and the movement of the military — a truth acceptable even to most libertarians, and evidenced by a frequent PJM contributor who lives in Central America separated from the town by a private road he cannot use, requiring him to ride a horse through jungle to see the orthodontist.

So America requires a governmental agency funded by public dollars facilitating this essential public service, the movement of the military being the strongest argument for “essential.” How does such a thing get created? The elected representatives of the people, once realizing that such an agency is necessary, name the thing something sufficiently Washingtonian — let’s call it the “Department of Transportation” — and they craft a mission statement, a mini-Constitution, to ensure that the agency does not overstep its bounds and trample liberty: control of transportation puts an agency in position to violate the trust given it in the form of public wealth. Here it is, the DOT mission:

Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.

Further: that agency should be held accountable to the public trust via an inspector general and freely available financial records and salary structure, its actions superbly documented and accessible.

If you are an American born after the publication of Das Kapital, you know this fine idea would derail at “Serve the United States” and go Alec Baldwin bats*** at “safe.”

“Enhance the quality of life of the American people”? Hide the silver, and hit up Stephen Green for the top-shelf stuff.

What actually transpired? The Department of Transportation was so established in 1966, by an order of Congress, presumably because there was nothing else at the time fulfilling this necessity. Right?

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