Senator Rand Paul's recent filibuster has brought a lot of attention to the topic of limiting government power in the last week. This site has spent the past week hosting conservative mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh and Senator Paul himself. But is anti-government sentiment going to get us anywhere? Maybe it is time the conversation shifted a bit to how we can make existing programs more efficient.
First, I get that "anti-government" is a bit of an oversimplification. Most fiscal conservatives aren't really anti-government; they believe that government does have a purpose. However, they are more concerned with limiting the reach of government than increasing the effectiveness of its current reach. So, for simplicity's sake, I'll call it anti-government in this article.
Unfortunately, for all talk of cutting back government, that isn't going to happen in our representative democracy. Despite an overall approval for vague "budget cuts," government programs (once specified) are all too popular for elected officials to cut and expect to keep their jobs. Not one program can get even a third of the country to be willing to cut it, except foreign aid. And that is only because of poor awareness of current foreign aid spending.
At the same time, the government can't afford to expand any further into new areas the people aren't already accustomed to it being in ... especially since large tax hikes are apparently out of the question.
All of this anti-government rhetoric (Tea Party), and its accompanying anti-anti-government rhetoric (my fellow Democrats) aren't going to get us anywhere. As a matter of fact, if sequestration is any indication, it is only going to dig us into a deeper hole. Instead, let's look to ways to improve the government we already have.
Going into government with the sole purpose of restricting its ability to act is just plain passive-aggressive, if you think about it.
I don't have the specific answers; I'm a 21-year-old, just graduating from college. But I do know that the answer doesn't lie in criticizing the size of government. It lies in innovative cost-saving strategies, new technologies, and reforms that keep the scope of government where it is. One humble suggestion would involve making sure that government help only goes to those that need government help, or, that all health-care providers should be careful not to administer costly treatments to those whom it won't help.
Resist your urge to translate "improve the efficiency of" to "cut" (as we apparently all do, according to this poll) and look for bottom-line savings. That's probably one way that Bill Gates was right in his "government should run like a business" remarks.
So, sorry, libertarians; as much as I love arguing with you all, our arguments aren’t going to get us anywhere. Save the debates on the role of government to the political science classrooms and blog sites, because that's already been decided for now. Let's get to work actually finding realistic solutions that won't piss off three quarters of the country instead.