Why Fear Big Government?

3) Patronage

In California there are hundreds of worthless state boards with six-figure, governor-appointed officials. We assume that in our term-limited state, these sinecures are the refuges of former state assembly and senate politicians. In fact, as soon as we elect our state officials, we accept that they will cut deals with state executives to provide for their upcoming retirements -- “I’ll vote for this, if in 4 years I get that spot on the state water board or the state fair practices committee.”

We know that if a local supermarket goes broke or a propane dealer goes under, our lives are affected. But in the case of many government entities, their absence would mean absolutely nothing deleterious in our daily lives — and actually much good.

The Blago Chicago mess shows how our tax monies are used to put cronies, cousins, and sometimes worthless people on the public payroll. And the larger the government, the more powerful these constituencies. Here again in California, the public employee unions rail daily that any cuts, layoffs, or furloughs are equivalent to some sort of collective and heartless felony, as if the state in 1998, 2001 or 2004, with thousands fewer employees, was once rendered helpless.

4) The Greek four-step

I once lived in Greece for over two years, and visit there every other summer. Any casual observer could have predicted its present fiscal meltdown, which is emblematic of big government socialism. Here is the creed of many of  the EU socialist states.

1) Praise socialism in the abstract and demonize capitalism, especially the American model, as cruel and heartless.

2) Cheat in every way imaginable on your taxes. On any average day in Greece, a shopkeeper, repairman, or business person would offer a product or service for a 30% discount if paid in cash and kept off the books. Tax-dodging was a national pastime — and this from dyed-in-the-wool socialists. (e.g., we are back to the paradigm of this nation’s leading tax-enforcer and tax-lawmaker both being tax dodgers).

3) Connive for every imaginable state entitlement. In Greece, inventing a disability, fudging for an age subsidy, keeping a dead beneficiary on the books are likewise national pastimes. The notion that the EU had to send more monies southward than went back in taxes to Brussels made it all the better, as there was a sort of endemic “us/them” or Michelle Obama-like “raise the bar” mentality that something was “owed” to Greece anyway, so why not take advantage of richer European cousins? No honor among socialists?

4) Institutionalized lethargy. When one cannot be fired, then one immediately begins to plot to slow down, how to do the least imaginable work for the greatest pay. The beaches near Athens in the afternoon had plenty of government power, water, and phone panel-vans, as employees went out on a “service call” to the sea. Banks might have ten employees, five customers, and no one at the customer service windows. Again, the government electrician or mechanic would invariably proposition to come back later in the evening to do the work faster for cash without notification to his superiors.

Here are the apparent protocols of such big government socialism: no one believes in it; everyone seeks to cheat the system and others in it; no one wishes to criticize the system when it is easier to con it; the public pretension of humanitarianism encourages private selfishness -- sort of like the noble French in 2003 going to the beach for their annual August vacation in scorching temperatures while the state was supposed to keep their aged parents, who died in the thousands, alive in non-air-conditioned flats.

Repressed anger is the national creed: those who work the hardest and pay the most for others less industrious or gifted barely constrain a seething resentment; those on the receiving end constantly channel envy and jealousy as mechanisms to justify why “they” should  redistribute income to themselves, the more deserving.

5) Ministry of Truth

Government has the power of symbols to create alternate, scary realities. This week driving to and from the coast, I crossed several stretches of “The Honorable Joe Blow” freeway, and saw dozens of signs that essentially said “this project brought to you by big government stimulus.”

But why should I believe that a state or federal representative who channels pork deserves a freeway stretch named after him — or that his benefaction with someone else’s money was absolutely critical to his state? And why does borrowing billions more to fix an overpass have to be advertised by government billboards (why not a fair practice statute: next to such propaganda some private organization could blare out in a rival sign: “This questionable project meant that we borrowed another $1 billion from China.”)

First, we had a “war on terror” (did we declare war on Japanese kamikazes or SS camps?), then “overseas contingency operations.”  What’s next?

“Stimulus,”“man-made disasters” and “no child left behind” mean almost nothing, and surely not “massive borrowing,” “radical Islamic warmaking” or “a failed therapeutic curriculum in our schools.” Orwell was on to something in his focus on the government’s power of language to manufacture truth out of fantasy.

We all need government for defense, security, and infrastructure. But the more of it, the more dangerous — and creepy — our lives become.