A recent post by Scott Sumner made me think about this question. The odd part is, many of us have been conditioned since youth to believe that - even if we're not crazy about the results - government does some very important things not just at home but in the world at large. Mmmm, has anything changed in that regard? While I'm neither tea partier or hater of government from other perspectives, I'm still wondering whether the trajectory of government has strayed too far from anything that actually helps people today in any realistic sense.
Perhaps government has become too much separated from the practical realities of our lives, and the time has come to do something constructive about it. Because in the present, its interventions and decisions tend to be too rigid and dogmatic in setting the course people are expected to follow - people who vary from one another in numerous ways. Even though people need flexible guidelines to really do anything really well, it's as though flexibility too has been made "against the law" and everything is strictly either/or: locally, statewide and nationally.
In a timeframe when it was widely expected that knowledge could be utilized for progress, as needed decision making and further wealth creation, too many instead find themselves to be "knowledge sharecroppers" with no fields of their own to tend to. Likewise, the potential diversity of knowledge itself is scarcely reflected in any but a smattering of cities and regions of the world. Because our time use is not accurately correlated with monetary circumstance, individual knowledge use has been discouraged and monetary systems have been increasingly misunderstood.
The prime role of any government should be that of a facilitator for workable economic systems, for as many among populations as humanly possible. But the process of facilitation is quickly becoming short circuited and our systems are in disarray. Today's elected officials are no longer able to assist in coordinating either the services or infrastructure which people actually need to work and interact with one another. Indeed, it's hard to see how elected officials have led the kinds of lives that allow them to understand the varied and diverse needs of their constituents: needs which call for greater definition of environment than currently allowed.
What's more, people fight over the continuance of some economic roles which exist primarily to stop a wide range of productive economic activity from happening at all, on the part of potential producers or consumers. The effects of that governmental protection now reverberate throughout all aspects of our economic realities, and can scarcely be captured in the surface reality of budget problems. Such roles should be carefully reexamined, to determine their continued viability. How do we account for so many failures in government's primary tasks?
On the surface a lot about economic life still appears normal to those who are still actively engaged in work responsibilities. But under the surface of a partially functioning market system are communities where many individuals and local economies are vulnerable. That is especially true if they depend on checks from government - regardless of their income or personal circumstance. Even as governments depends on citizens for their own continuance, all too often, bureaucracy undercuts the potential of individuals to remain strong in their own right.
In the past, it was the actions of governments which in many respects led to the marketplace definitions people continue to utilize. The main issue at hand is not so much about large or small government, as it is about repairing the increasingly broken role of facilitator. Right now, society does not have the organizational capacity to prepare for the challenges of the 21st century, and it is not clear just how much both public and private interests stand in the way of making that happen. By no means does the future consist of a single vision, and there needs to be realistic ways to allow multiple visions to happen.