Special Interest Socialism

by Jeff Williams

It has been argued, on occaison, over which is the proper rate for the reduction of government. Not over how much the growth of government should be slowed down, but rather at which rate the actual size of the government should be reduced in scope and power. There seems to be two main feelings amongst those who wish to see the size, scope, and power of government reduced. First, there is a conservative approach, which favors a more incremental reduction in the size of government. Secondly, there is the libertarian approach, which calls for more immediate reductions in the size of government. Although both sides disagree as to how much the size, power, and scope of government must be reduced, they do agree in general to the fact that government must be reduced in some manner. However, they again disagree as to the rate at which that government must be reduced.

The conservative approach, and for the most part, the Republican approach, calls for more incremental reductions in the size of government. Republicans claim that this approach pays more attention to political reality. There is still an overwhelming portion of people who choose to not reduce the power, size, and scope of government at all, but would rather continue the status quo, or rather allow the government to continue growing. It would be politically impossible to implement changes in government without doing it in small steps, by winning one battle at a time. This line of reasoning for the most part has driven the Republicans negotiations on the recent budget. The hope is that you are more likely to be successful by getting your opponents to agree to small reductions in growth every single year. By slowly reducing the size of government every year, you can stealthily reverse the trend of big government programs.

The libertarian approach is to reduce the size of government immeadiately, and to offset the number of government programs and services with huge reductions in income tax. Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne summed this idea up in his question "would you be willing to give up your favorite government program if it meant you would never have to pay income tax again?" Critics point out a number of problems with this approach. First, they argue that the change would be too much for the economy. The loss of government jobs would have a devastating effect on the economy. Secondly, it is argued that it is politically unrealistic to get the Democrat Party to agree to such dramatic changes in the government makeup. Therefore, the Republican approach, it is argued is the only sensible way to affect change. After all, it took many years to build the government up the the present size it is today, it will take many years to reduce it back to a manageable size again.

However, the Republican approach suffers from a number of even greater mistakes. Their approach to solving the problem of big government completely overlooks the nature of incremental socialism, and the history of how government expanded its powers in our society. An analysis of most government programs shows that almost every single government program was designed and implemented for a special interest. It can be argued that each government program benefits only a small portion of the population, but that government is so big today, that at some level, every person directly benefits from at least one government program. So rather than a small government with a small number of individual duties and programs that benefits all citizens equally, we have a big government with a very large number of duties and programs, that each benefits each citizens differently and unequally. And with each one of these programs come with it , guarenteed, its very own special interest lobbyi! ! ng group that tries to influence government to continue its own special interest program. Very often you actually come across the curious example where one special interest argued FOR its own government program, while it also argues AGAINST the special interest programs that benefit other groups rather than themselves.

So it starts with tariffs to protect the textile industry, moves on to price mainpulations to benefit farmers, then to government loans for students, tax breaks for special industries, welfare for the poor, health care for the elderly, R&D grants for technology, personal pork programs for local districts...and it goes on and on. Rarely are government programs implemented for the benefit of anybody but the special interest who is lobbying for its passage. The history of big government is a history of small programs designed to help a particular part of society. It doesn't matter whether it was done with good or bad intentions. Often too many politicians see the short term benefits of a program, say, tariffs on a particular industries' foreign competititors that save jobs. But those same politicians fail to see the loss in productivity by subsidizing inefficient production, they fail to see how the loss of competition hurts consumers and may in the long run actually hurt th! ! e very industry it thought it was helping. For it is the nature of government programs to hide the opportunity cost that arises in every single business transaction that occurs in the economy. The governments actions show only one result of the opportunity cost, the jobs saved, and rarely see the hidden results of their decision...the blow to competition, consumer choice, and product cost.

One can therefore conclude that the Republican plan to reduce the size, scope and power of the federal government in incremental steps is doomed to fail. It is doomed because it is the nature of the current American brand of socialism, what can be called "special interest socialism" to be implemented in those same very small steps. In short, for every step the Republicans take forward, they will not realize they have actually taken two steps back. Any attempt to cut one particular government program will therefore, have an immediate effect on only one particular segment of society. So while one special interest group will lose its stake in government programs, 99 other special interest groups will continue to recieve their benefits from government programs. This pitting of special interest group against special interest group will be disasterous for the Republicans. They will be accused of favoritism, and of giving in to the lobbying efforts of certain special interest g! ! roups at the expense of others. In short, they will be accused of "hurting the poor to help the rich." This particular accusation is actually well founded. The amount of attention spent on cutting social welfare was not nearly as much as the attention spent on cutting so-called "corporate" welfare, the huge R&D and business subsidies that companies like Archer-Daniels-Midland continue to receieve. They will have the appearance of being "wishy-washy" and inconsistent in their platform, (which is exactly what I have accused them of on a number of occaisons). To eliminate one special interest group program, while continuing a dozen more gives the impression that you are in fact SUPPORTING those remaining special interest group program, in which case, it can be argued that you should have never cut the other program in the first place.

To conclude, there is only one effectice way to reduce the size of the federal government. Rather than fight one war at a time, rather than taking on one special interest group at a time, the war must be fought all at once. The number of government programs that benefit one group over another must be done away with immeadiately, as the Libertarian Party suggests.

To reduce the size of government, every single special interest group and program must be treated as the same monster. There is only one special interest group as far as I am concerned, and that is the group that believes it is the job of the federal government to administer these programs and to cater to certain groups in the first place. Yes, socialism is the enemy, but the brand of socialism in this country is not being propped up by the state as much as it is by special interests. To tackle socialism, you must tackle all of the special interests involved in supporting our little version of socialism.

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