Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another Reason To Shrink The Government

According to some experts, the United States is falling apart.

A pipeline shuts down in Alaska. Equipment failures disrupt air travel in Los Angeles. Electricity runs short at a spy agency in Maryland.

None of these recent events resulted from a natural disaster or terrorist attack, but they may as well have, some homeland security experts say. They worry that too little attention is paid to how fast the country's basic operating systems are deteriorating.


The American Society of Civil Engineers last year graded the nation "D" for its overall infrastructure conditions, estimating that it would take $1.6 trillion over five years to fix the problem.

I once heard an analyst from the Cato Institute describe big government as a luxury we purchase for ourselves when the economy is strong. I think this is a wise insight, and can be expanded by noting that when we buy ourselves a luxury, it usually has little to do with our actual needs. A luxury item isn't usually an expensive version of a necessity, it is an impulsive purchase for which no prior need existed. In this sense, the big government we support when times are good is not big government that will prove useful, but simply a popular impulse in response to a supposed, not actual, need.

All those billions we've thrown at expanded regulations and expensive programs are now coming back to haunt us. Most of them should be tossed aside as unaffordable luxuries, so that money can diverted to infrastructure or taxes cut for those industries that can improve infrastructure. It pains me to say it, but even the so-called "big-government conservative" programs I generally support, such as a Mars mission and NCLB, probably need to be dropped in favor of infrastructure spending. We shouldn't tolerate living in a country where our elites preen at their own superiority for passing grandiose federal programs, while all around us we see deterioration and decay.

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