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Obligations and Voluntary Actions

Obligations and Voluntary Actions

The new has amassed a bunch of great essays from CATO scholars and the like. One of my (very) recent favorites is from Aaron Ross Powell, who discusses the nature of political obligation in How We Might Become Politically Obligated, a follow up to his introductory post on the topic.

The post got me thinking: people tend to think of the government as an immovable entity, though not as a service. A service is something that two parties voluntarily opt-into and much of political philosophy revolves around making government a service that is (theoretically) attractive to most parties in a society.

Unfortunately, the conversation tends to give irresponsibility in government a pass, whereas voluntary exchanges and transactions are scrutinized ad nausea. As long as the people continue to treat voluntary actions (like working for Foxconn) as an abuse of humanity, but simultaneously defend the legislators who have wrought fiscal havoc and appeal to special interest groups, I don’t think the conversation will ever orient itself properly.

Which politician do you think does the best job of discussing government as a service to taxpayers?

(As an aside, this is a particularly thoughtful piece from the American Spectator: Subculture Clash.)


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But there are examples of worse.
Consider Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Their former officers faked results to earn bonuses and ultimately these organizations failed under their leadership, but now the taxpayers must pay for their legal defense. Oh please.

Midwest Rhino | March 30, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Kucinich was on the other day, talking of all the inefficiencies in private insurance … advertising, administration, etc.

Dennis the Menace seems to think government has proved that there is no heavy bureaucratic burden or waste in Medicare. Or that public unions are known for efficiency and motivated workers, even though they are now shown to cost much more than private sector equivalents.

By their utopian thinking, the statists would have us all buy the same government “people’s car”, eliminating all that advertising and those “bad” choices. The collectivists have no clue about incentive, or the power of the free market. Or are they just angry that some succeed outside the will of the collective?

Which politician do you think does the best job of discussing government as a service to taxpayers?

Hard to say who is the best, but I have to say Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder isn’t half bad.

A couple of days ago he was in Detroit, at a townhall, discussing the possible EFM (emergency Finance manager)as Detroit plunges into bankruptcy.

I thought his answer to this question was superb-

(Fast forward to 38:35)

“Which politician do you think does the best job of discussing government as a service to taxpayers?”

The one who knows, going in, he will only be there for one term.

Term limits.

I’m not aware of any politician who describes government as a service. I can think of a few who consider it a disservice (those would be ones I tend to like) and a lot who describe it as the caring and compassionate answer to all our problems. Those are usually (but not always) called democrats and should be treated only with contempt.

Very telling question, Kathleen. And the answer scares me. First, because only the astute really recognize governing as a service. The remainder think of it as a function. A necessary and long term function, at that. And that makes them “providers”, ensuring an enduring and profitable life’s work.

Secondly, services are usually provided on a short term basis, by contractors and specialists and such. Not much job security in that. So even those understanding the relationship are tempted to ignore or somehow counter those personally negative side effects. Without fixed term limits we have shafted ourselves and the situation is now probably beyond “fixing”. Short of a revolution, of course. That is the dilemma, IMO.