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Monday, February 09, 2004

Limiting Government

A boost to the productivity of the great economies of the world has been due to unleashing the beneficent forces of free trade through privatization and deregulation of services that were once controlled by the government. Telecoms, transportation, information services (including the internet), energy, water, and garbage services are among the services now provided privately that were once much more controlled by the government. Let’s debate whether various other services, funded through tax collection, should be performed or strongly controlled by government personnel, or should be cut-off from the federal teat.

Here’s a list of services candidates for inclusion or exclusion from significant government involvement, some of which might be summarily dismissed by us all. Note that including an item in your list does not mean that the government would play the same role as it does now with regard to the service in question; a “Yes” answer may mean that the government’s role differs significantly in the system you’d propose compared with its current role. For example, with regard to the government’s role in Education, it may still play a significant role, but one that is quite different than its current one. Such a situation would constitute a “Yes,” on the list. It will be up to you later, if you wish, (perhaps at the San Diego GG IV), to defend your inclusions and exclusions. For the moment, just take the poll below by using the Edit function and putting your initials next to your answer for each service below. If you’re not sure, “Undecided” is an acceptable answer. Brief comments with your vote are allowed. My votes (and some comments) are already revealed.

•Healthcare JRB-Yes (This is an issue I’d really like to study more. It seems that many countries with a more nationalized approach are providing more satisfactory benefit-to-cost outcomes. Are there paragons of free market healthcare for us to learn from?); BAW-Yes
•Education JRB-Yes (but only to provide $10,000/yr – indexed to inflation – per school age child who attends lessons regularly; and to legislate access to equitable, but not necessarily similar, learning by all child residents in every district who wish to attend lessons); BAW-Yes
•National defense JRB-Yes (but with a plan to decrease annual budgets); BAW-Yes
•Unemployment insurance JRB-No (except to require that workers devote a percentage of income sufficient to buy insurance and/or interest-bearing conditional annuities that ensure 6 or 12 months of buffer income in the event of unemployement); BAW-Yes
•Retraining services JRB-Yes (but privatized with clear and open performance metrics regarding client satisfaction and results); BAW-Not Sure
•Welfare funds (e.g., money, food stamps, rent) for the poor JRB-Yes; BAW-Yes
•Welfare services for invalids and addicts JRB-Yes; BAW-Yes
•Old age pensioning (Social Security) JRB-No (except to require that workers devote a percentage of income to a savings account offered by private companies with investment options of a dozen or so stock, bond, money market, and REIT index funds); BAW-Yes
•Immigration law enforcement JRB-Yes (but an innovative idea might convince me otherwise); BAW-Yes
•Illegal drug interdiction and enforcement JRB-No (except to regulate sales and use similarly as alcohol); BAW-Yes
•Other police services JRB-Yes (but incarceration capabilities could be outsourced with oversight); BAW-Yes
•Agricultural subsidization JRB-No; BAW-No
•Energy industry subsidization – JRB-No; BAW-No
•NASA (besides landing men on the moon, the smartest thing this service ever did was give itself a good name) JRB-No; BAW-No
•Amtrak JRB-No; BAW-No
•Transportation infrastructure (including highways, airports, ports, bridges) JRB-Yes (but I’m interested in the idea of funding primarily through bond-based referenda that are paid off with local collection of wage taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and/or user fees); BAW-Yes
•Arts subsidization JRB-Undecided; BAW-No
•Science funding (e.g., IHS, NSF) JRB-Undecided (but probably No); BAW-Yes
•Museums and libraries services JRB-Yes; BAW-No for Museums, Yes for Libraries
•National parks services JRB-Yes; Baw-Not sure
•Small business services and/or subsidization JRB-Undecided; BAW-No
•Environmental protection JRB-Yes; BAW-Yes
•Other regulatory services JRB-Yes (but with an emphasis on creating market-based incentives that reduce the need for regulatory oversight); BAW-Yes
•Foreign aid, development, and exchange JRB-Yes (and increasing as defense decreases, though probably less than dollar for dollar); BAW-Yes
•Tax collection JRB-No; BAW-Yes

Update (BAW): I've added mine. A couple comments: first, I've assumed that the time frame for the answers is today thru at least the next few years; second, that "government" means federal, state, or local government, whichever is best.

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