Big Government

When Ronald Reagan first became a movie star and started making big money, he discovered that he had to pay taxes, and a lot of them.  This traumatic experience turned him from a Democrat into a Republican, which made him another type of star on the plutocrat speaking tour and and, later, Governor and President.  He popularized hatred of the government and became its biggest spokesman.  Today, Republicans living on one form or another all over the country think of themselves as anti-government activists.

Political theorists have conjured up all matter of reasons why as to why governments were instituted among men, but history suggests that instituting irrigation was a major impetus, and subsequently, protecting crops and people from those who would appropriate them.  For a long time, government was the principal means by which development proceeded.  The development of Capitalism, and its apotheosis at the hands of Adam Smith and others, showed that there was another way.  By establishing stable institutions of finance and trade, governments could promote individual investments with significant developmental efficiencies.  

As with any good idea, this idea attracted those determined to push it beyond its useful domain.  As Adam Smith himself noted, their are regimes where government action is urgent.  In Bill Gates new book, How to Avoid Climate Disaster, he talks a lot about the nitty gritty of Climate Action - not the politics, but the engineering and building.  A late chapter deals with the necessity and effect of government policies and actions.  He adduces a few examples from recent history:

In 1910, only 12 percent of Americans had electric power in their homes. By 1950, more than 90 percent did, thanks to efforts like federal funding for dams, the creation of federal agencies to regulate energy, and a massive government project to bring electricity to rural areas.

Gates, Bill. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (p. 182). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

He has a few other examples, and of course they could be multiplied: transcontinental railroads, the highway system, the internet, weather satellites and so on.  Naturally the fanatical believers in certain economic-political theories don't buy this, but neither the general public nor most of the political class take them to seriously. 


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