Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Billy, the era of big government is not over...
During George Bush's first term in office spending rose by 23.7 percent. In 2003 the overall federal expediture was an estimated $2.31 trillion compared to $1.86 trillion in 2000 while Clinton was in power.
Terrorism, wars in Afghanistan, and Iraq, + inflationary pressures upon Social Security, medicare, and Medicaid all contributed to this, but, most significantly, discretionary spending had also risen 31.5% by 2004, compared to an annual average of 3.4% during the Clinton years.
In the UK also, we have seen expansionist policies in place for the last six years or so, after the tight reins Gordon Brown immediatley employed during the early stages of his career at #11 Downing Street. Billions of new moneys invested in schools, and hospitals, generated by a higher proportion of the nations wealth being taxed, as well as increased government revenue. A statistic I saw last year said something like one in five Britain's are employed by the state in the United Kingdom.
In the European Union, there is a push towards liberalising markets driven predominantly by Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, and the recently intergrated former eastern block countries. But, most drives toward market reform are being aggressively fought by nations such as France insisting upon huge subsidies, and protectionist measures for their domestic economies.
In the developing world the predominant consensus is that the West needs to work harder to provide access to our markets, but it is also commonly argued that protectionism needs to be employed in poorer nations to prevent resources and labour being exploited, and their potential consequently stagnated by monolithic multi-national corporations.
The era of big government, or the concept of an expansionist government, is not by any means over.
Regardless of your political affiliation you cannot deny that trade is the foundation upon which we organize ourselves as a society. As an individual I cannot be personally responsible for every provision I need, or desire... I can't grow my own food, educate my children, provide my own healthcare, design and construct my own means of transport, create my own means of communicating with, and learning from the wider world.
We depend upon each other for our civilisation to flourish... our needs and demands as a society creating opportunities for us as individuals... to inturn generate currency from which we can fulfill our own ever broadening range of needs and desires. This is simply the basis upon which an interconnected collection of people evolves into a community/town/city and so on. Trade has been just as vital a tenet of guaranteeing civilisation in the past as our relgious institutions and forms of governance.
The question is whether we seek to intervene and control the distribution of provisions, as a collective, or instead, allow the needs and demands we have as individuals to create a comprehensive and accessible, ubiquitously fulfilling supply of goods and services.
Two issues arise that focus our predominant political ideologies...
1) A free market is not perfect.
Watching on as huge sways of a community struggle to find opportunity and in turn the means to provide for themselves and their families, invests in a lot of people the urge for us to act together, or elect and fund representatives upon our behalf, to intervene and influence the areas of society that are affected by the market's inadequacies.
2) Our individual pursuits as free individuals.
My exploration within the infrastructure of civilisation to determine my personal worth to society is a fundamental, spirtual right that we all intrinsically crave. To freely decide to farm, or build houses, or design houses, or design clothes, or write, or whatever else that enlivens our respective spirits and invests us with meaning... is as essential as any part of our experience on this earth. Our life's course should not be predetermined as a labourer in the local factory in the cause of the greater good, when everybody's individual liberty is, after all, a vital prerequisite of the greater good.
My personal belief is that our progress as a civilization is an evolutionary process, just as our biological evolution has been. See the irrefutable diagram I made below :)
Our evolution from centuries past can be seen in our consciousness, in our relationships, and in our notions of self. We are no longer simply defined by our part in a collective. We are increasingly endowed with self determination and the freedom to define ourselves as a Christian, or a Hindu, or a football supporter, or a jogger, or a dreamer, or a know it all, or a singer, or a computer nerd, or an S&M freak... or all of them at the same time.
Just look at the blogosphere, and the sheer diversity of our humanity flourishing and connecting and becoming something more. We are all more as a result of the incumbency that is placed upon our shoulders: to determine our own path in society. To not stand in a cue, and be directed to one industry or another in the quest of sustaining a communal ideal.
These ideas may seem lofty, but, they are the bedrock of politics. I believe in an activist government. I believe we can craft government intervention to educate and create opportunities in a way that retains our individual freedoms. I also believe that commercialism is often an entity unto itself, divorced from our needs and desires... busy MANUFACTURING DEMAND, instead of meeting it. And god knows the pressures of the market aren't always best placed to provide a continent, like Africa, in the midst of an AIDS epidemic with kind of medical care it needs.
But, this should never cloud the fact that we are better for the responsibility we have over our own lives. In the pub tonight, I was talking to this guy who bemoaned how difficult he found life. London was too expensive, he lost all his money in a divorce, he gave up his career. His negativism clouded the possibilities of all that life might continue to hold. I see so much of that in this country. A void of imagination, education, and self-belief.
When in the pursuit of communal ideas like nationhood, and religion, the very worst human attrocities have been committed. When, as I believe, human beings are fundamentally good, compassionate, social, interconnected creatures, the influence of government in fully developed economies must begin to reside in a different type of activism. Government must become smaller... it just has to.
We need to start doing everything we can to help people help themselves. To focus upon enterprise in our schools, and role models for kids from less priveleged backgrounds who don't believe in a better future... and universal access to an excellent education... and training centers, and processes to get the unemployed skills to pursue different types of work... and all kinds of stuff like that. This, is what I believe the role of government should be: a smaller, leaner, inspiring platform for everyone. The growth of our economy demands that we search out alternatives to the role the state currently plays in our lives... Social Security being the most obvious example. It's just ironic that this administraion has failed so miserably to decisively confront the role of government in our evolving society, and, of course, that their fiscal imprudence has jeapordized it all anyway.
What happened to big ideas and inspirational minds in politics confronting the larger societal trends? Looking at the prospective nominees for 2008 is so depressingly soul destroying.