As my colleague Mike Bailey said earlier this week, “tax increases can be tolerated, but a dozen little increases is like being nibbled to death by a duck.”
The immeasurable tax on a beleaguered individual or a small business is not just financial, it is the time, strain, and perplexities involved in just trying to comply with what appears to be relentlessly invasive and incomprehensible government(s).
As another fellow (presumably Thomas Jefferson) said lower down in our Declaration of Independence—a document that is widely known for its quotable preamble—but is mostly a long serial indictment of the king:
“He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out our substance.”
It seems to me that MB and TJ are saying the same thing right down to the metaphor involving rapacious appetites.
Now the problem in 1776 involved being ruled capriciously from afar. America had become a different kind of place than England, the 13 colonies were united by aggravations they shared more than similarities they really had. Politics are more often a coalition of grievance than a mountaintop of gleaming ideology.
It has never been clear to me whether the classic libertarian argument for a “smaller” government is about the size of the government, the ever-expanding arena of responsibilities politicians seem to desire, or perhaps simply how ‘local’ our government should be. The answer is probably “all of the above.”
Since we are munching today, let us discuss food. Every few years, Congress reworks the “food bill.” They get strangely non-partisan because this bill is a coalition between the urban needs for food stamps (which of course are no longer stamps but an electronic card), school lunch programs, and a plethora of ‘nutritional’ regulations combined with the rural enclaves’ desire to market their crops.
From all this kerfuffle you land up with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) articulating all sorts of things about those school lunches in particular. This very week brought us a discourse on “pink slime,” a product that once had something to do with meat.
All this can be helpful, discussed in unread documents, and transposed down to the schoolrooms in your own little neighborhood, to the point one lands up with teachers condemning the lunch your mother made you as inadequate. Even ‘Mom” and apple pie are targets now.
But that’s not the point, even though it has become the point in our inexorably modulated, regulated world. As my oft-quoted favorite blogger, Walter Russell Mead, said recently, it’s about government itself:
“Let’s be clear: if school lunches shouldn’t be settled at the local level, democracy is doomed. If we actually need federal bureaucrats to tell us what to feed our children, the republic is finished and it is time to close up shop. …
“Local control is not going to give the ‘best answer 100 percent of the time—but neither is any other system of administration and control. …
“Some people will push to transform the civil service and increase the productivity of workers in government and government-related services (above all, health and education) because restructuring and re-engineering government is the only way they can provide the services they want the public sector to provide. …
“… Clumsy, inefficient and expensive government doesn’t work for anybody; the old style of organizing and managing government with 1950s style bureaucratic structures and post office-style staffing patterns of a large but inefficiently deployed unionized staff is a Democratic dream-killer as well as a Republican nightmare. Progressive-era lifetime bureaucracies using midcentury administrative and management procedures can’t address the issues of our times.”
What Mead is talking about is the thing that truly ails us. It is not really Democrat or Republican, although each party has a different way of dealing with a dilemma that may bring our great republic down. We are in a period of radical transformation to which we have yet found the ability to either understand or adjust to.
The agrarian world has been mechanized, the industrial world globalized, and the clerical one digitized. Where we are going next is an unanswerable question, but going there seems to separate the classes, raise gas prices, and jobs are hard to find.
But within this gloom, our ‘city in the suburbs’ might be an appropriate place to make a stand. The city of commerce to the morning, the breadbasket of the world to the west, a sound tradition of manufacturing and creativity all around us – and it’s my hometown.
Less government, fewer rules, more local--the reason I like local politics is because it is the last workable thing that still makes some sense to me and it lives among friends.
The best place to work on it is right here in Elgin.