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One of the RW memes that seems to have emerged in the Ayn Randian universe is that government money (what little of it there can be any legitimate reason to collect, of course) should be spent to maximize benefits for the greatest number of people, and that misuse of public money to actually help people is clearly wasteful and therefore obscene. But one person’s waste is often another person’s salvation.

By way of analogy, I offer the following story of a seemingly simple high school science project with an unwitting political bias.

I reviewed a high school science project recently that studied the public transportation system in a major metropolitan area.  The study determined that an optimization algorithm deploying the same resources as the existing system could have resulted in a transportation system that would reduce the AVERAGE commute from 45 minutes to 39 minutes. The optimized system located more stations in high population density areas and fewer in low density areas. It was an excellent student project, properly using a mathematical optimization scheme to allocate scarce resources to achieve a well stated objective. But I noticed that it had a decidedly political flavor that the students almost certainly overlooked. They had assumed that optimizing the AVERAGE commute, while neglecting the LONGEST commute, would result in the most efficient system and therefore the greatest community outreach. In fact, the simple outcome that the students failed to notice was that saving 6 minutes from the average commute penalized the longest commute from just over 2 hrs to more than 3 hours. In other words, by taxing each average commuter 6 minutes, the less optimum system enabled the least favorably located to reduce their commute by over 30 percent.

Consider the recent controversy over why Repubs really hate Obamacare. It is a clear example of some people having to pay a little more (the wealthy, mostly) so that less fortunate people (the poor and the sick, mostly) can have access to health care. This seems to set off the outrage trigger in the RW brain. I refer you this statement from blogger Avik Roy (quoted by brainwrap) about liberals’ careless abandonment of their fiduciary responsibility to protect the taxpayer from inefficient waste of public money:

Some on the left are dismissive of higher costs

I’m struck by how contemptuous the left can be about these issues, especially given the moral obligation of government to spend taxpayer dollars in the most efficient possible manner.

Wait – let's ignore the hypocrisy of RW complaints about government inefficiency (brainwrap addressed that very well in his diary) - but, really, since when is the government obligated to spend money efficiently? I don’t remember “Liberty, Equality, Efficiency” as being the rallying cry of democracy – am I missing something? It would be far more efficient to allow the mentally ill to roam the streets without resources. To let the unemployed starve. To put children to work at the youngest age possible. To build transportation systems that favor the well-positioned, at the expense of the least favored.

If efficiency were our guiding principle, it would be far more efficient to let sick people die quickly than to spend money on Obamacare. Why should anyone have to pay more to help out his fellow traveler in need? Never mind the obvious societal benefit of improving the nation’s health, and the plethora of ancillary benefits (think lower crime, fewer sick days, more economic benefits, reducing the burden on the routine use of emergency services).

In the liberal worldview, it makes sense for lots of people to chip in a small amount to help out the few who are truly hurting. In the conservative worldview, it doesn’t. In a nutshell, this is why I am a liberal. My mother raised me better than that.

Originally posted to liberaldad2 on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 10:51 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Amen (15+ / 0-)

    That's what it should be all about: I help you when you need it, you help me when I'd down and out. Society doesn't conform to a business model.

    •  Even business models no longer conform to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lilredhead, bleeding blue

      business models.  It was the US that helped the Germans create their business/community & union/management, by creating businesses that benefit the community and coupling that with boards that have union representation, Germany has continued to grow.  

      When did US businesses become all about the bottom line?  My guess is sometime during the 80s.  My first professional job in 1984 gave me three weeks of vacation plus 10 sick days plus 5 personal days (for various religious holidays) plus everyone got their birthday as a paid day off.  They paid the ENTIRETY of everyone's health insurance plus short and long term disability.  Each employee got a life insurance plan (where the employee could designate the beneficiary) equal to 4 times their annual salary.  Everyone in the company was a salaried employee (including those in the mail room).  I know, I did payroll for a time.  Other benefits included paying for continued education and 401k with 100% match up to 6% (50% match over 6%).  

      So what happened?  I can't imagine that this only happened at one company.

      "We know too much to go back and pretend" - Helen Reddy (humble cosmos shaker)

      by ditsylilg on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:53:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What Happened? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ditsylilg, bleeding blue

        Greed happened.  I too remember working in the late 70's and early 80's (before Reagan f--ked things up) and having good benefits and making pretty good money.  Once Reagan took over the greed group took over, and made sure laws were passed to help only them at the expense of everyone else.

        My question is this, how much more money, homes, cars, boats clothes do people like the Koch's need?  When will they, and people like them have enough?  When will the greed stop?

        Democrat Without Suffix, Prefix, Apology or Explanation .

        by Lilredhead on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:26:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Resolved in the 15th Century (27+ / 0-)

    The private sector of the day in the late 1490s could not afford the risk of a potential sea voyage to India despite the riches that such a successful journey would offer.

    Only the government (and not every government at that) was willing to take such risks that the private sector could not.

    Reagan/Palin/Paul/Norquist view would have advised the Spanish Royals that the private sector was best equipped to handle such projects.

    Reagan/Palin/Norquist would have advised against government funding of projects with unknown chances of success such as the National Road, Canals, Railroads, Telegraphs, Airline Industry, Computer Industry, Panama Canal, Anti-Malarial research, hydroelectric power,nuclear power and Space Program because government is the problem and not the solution.

    Reagan/Palin/Norquist would have opposed the imposition of tarrifs to protect the nascent US steel industry (and fund the transcontinental railroad).

    Reagan/Palin/Norquist/Scalia/Thomas would have advised Presdents Jefferson and Lincoln against the the Louisiana Purchase and the Alaska Purchase as the Constitution does not provide any such discretion to the Executive Branch.

    They also would have advised the President Lincoln against issuing the Emancipation Proclamation as it violates the Fifth Amendment.

    The difference between the modern day USA and Latin America is that the 18th and 19th century leaders had the wisdom and foresight to avoid the policies now in vogue in the USA.

  •  Been saying for years that (18+ / 0-)

    government is not a is not supposed to make a is supposed to use the money collected in taxes for the good of ALL of the people...

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abbey

    by SaraBeth on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 02:51:22 AM PDT

    •  The federal government is not revenue constrained (13+ / 0-)

      Taxes don't fund the budget. We have a fiat currency that is not convertible to anything else. The federal government is the sovereign issuer of currency and can create as much money as it needs to pay any obligation, of any size, at any time.

      It is the federal government's power to tax, that gives the currency (dollar) its value. Don't believe it? Try not paying your taxes and see what happens. Everyone must pay taxes in dollars, and the federal government accepts nothing else but dollars as payment. That is what drives the dollar's value.

      Taxes also regulate the economy, in that taxes drain buying power from the private sector. What does the federal government do with dollars collected from taxes? Nothing. Those dollars are simply removed from the economy (destroyed).

      This isn't some "fuzzy new math". Here is a paper from Beardsley Ruml in 1946, the former chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

      Taxation for Revenue is Obsolete

      All of these nihilist Randian "libertarians" don't know how our monetary system works, and don't know what they're ranting about. As Ruml points out, being freed from a revenue constraint, the federal government has enormous capability to put resources to work for the public good.

      But, we continue to elect Rand-worshipping idiots who behave like we are still writing checks against a stash of gold in Fort Knox.

      •  This deserves to be a diary. (7+ / 0-)

        Wonderful comment, Higgs Field.  Please consider expanding it.  This deserves exposure.  Thank you for posting it.

        Not all people are human; not all humans are people.

        by Jon Sitzman on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 12:21:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Are you an adherent to the theory on the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Yonit, thanatokephaloides

        14th Amendment and it's language:

        SECTION 4.

        The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

        [emphasis added]

        Which says that the Debt Ceiling act is superfluous, as the 14th Amendment, Section 4 Constitutionally ensures that any debt owned by the US Federal gov't WILL be paid.

        "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

        by Angie in WA State on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 12:40:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Heads would have exploded. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          worldlotus, Yonit, thanatokephaloides

          In the last episode of debt ceiling brinksmanship, one of the solutions considered was to invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment. The president declined to exercise this option, which many narrowly interpreted as applying to settling debts incurred from the Civil War.

          It seems odd that certain people who claim to be strict literalists (historical or contemporary) concerning the constitution, decided to adopt a “narrow interpretation” concerning the debt ceiling.  Instead of making these fickle literalists swallow their own medicine (“the constitution says what it says and nothing more!”), the president decided it was better to let congress embarrass itself. I’m sure these clowns would have been quick to draw up articles of impeachment had the president invoked the 14th Amendment. I’m also sure the current SCOTUS would have weighed in, and not favorably to the president.

          That aside, the debt ceiling is an anachronism that persists from our pre-fiat monetary system.

          What do budget deficits and the “national debt” really represent?

          The role of the federal government is to balance the economy, not the budget. The economy is not driven by anything except unemployment, inflation, and the currency exchange rate. Functionally, taxes are one of several mechanisms the federal government uses to regulate economic activity. The economy consists of three sectors; public, private, and foreign. The private sector is you, me, businesses, state and local governments. In the private sector, we must live within our means. We do not have the ability to create (print) money. We also want to have a surplus of money left over after we pay our bills ("net save") so that our balance remains positive.

          The same is true of the foreign sector. We buy goods and services from suppliers outside of the U.S. We pay these foreign suppliers with U.S. dollars, which is a good deal for them as our currency is stable. The U.S. is a net importer, meaning that the foreign sector (in aggregate) also maintains a positive balance.

          What does this mean for the public sector, which is the federal government? It is a basic accounting principle that balance sheets must balance – expenditures must equal income. Of the three sectors that make up the economy, if two sectors maintain a positive balance, then one sector must have a negative balance. The public sector negative balance – the federal “deficit” is merely a reflection of the net savings held by the private and foreign sectors. Beyond this, the federal deficit does not represent any limitation on the federal government’s ability to create currency for spending.

          There are a number of excellent books available for the non-economist, explaining how our monetary system works. Economists L. Randall Wray, Stephanie Kelton, Warren Mosler, and Jamie Galbraith are widely published proponents of modern monetary theory both in print and online.

          Recent episodes of political brinksmanship regarding the debt ceiling and demands to “pay for” any new spending with cuts to vital programs is nothing more than political theater and is damaging to the public good.

          One may wonder why most of our elected officials don’t understand our monetary system. Very few (if any) members of congress are economists. They don’t have any more knowledge of economics that the average person who is busy making a living and raising a family. They’ve been informed by their parents and grandparents, who lived through the depression and World War II, under a different system.

          And, unfortunately, there are elected officials who believe this awesome toolbox that is our monetary system is just an excuse to give everybody free stuff that they don’t deserve. I hope more members of congress will educate themselves and stop using the national debt and budget deficits as excuses to push austerity and further their radical agendas which include “drowning the government in a bath tub”.

          •  I was thinking more of the fact that up until (4+ / 0-)

            around the Reagan Era, those Debt Ceiling bills used to be PART of the Budget.

            The Congress would thus write their budget (their spending list) and then write their 'check' (the lifting of the debt limit to the amount of the budget over the current limit) in the same bill and pass them as a paired couplet. One with the other.

            Avoiding entirely any histrionics on the part of some idiots whom other idiots elected to Congress from dallying with the collapse of the Credit worthiness of the Federal Government of the US as a method of "political policy making".

            We used to do things, politically, in this country which were done that way for the benefit of the nation. Now we only do things which benefit one Party or the other. Fuck the nation.

            It's a terrible way to try and run a civilization, don't you think?

            "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

            by Angie in WA State on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 04:37:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I think one thing you missed is (14+ / 0-)

    the conservative opposition to freeloaders and people taking advantage of charity.  Just as there should be no welfare queens, everyone should be responsible for their own health care.  

    For me, though, it is hard to see sick or injured people as gaming the system.  Okay, maybe everyone can buy their own aspirin, but it is true bizarre to consider a person who is dying of cancer or suffering from some other serious health problem to be a social leech.  To me it sounds perfectly fine to have tax dollars used to help such people, maybe even a moral imperative.

  •  Neither. (9+ / 0-)

    It's to deal with the vagaries of man and nature.

    Vagaries implies change. Change is not something everyone can comprehend. They get what is (what they can see) and what isn't (what they don't see), but the intermediate stage escapes them. They are not process-oriented. Rather, they are fixated on beginnings and ends. They can also be described as existing in an ineffable present, where time is all one, not segmented.

    "Not change we can believe in" is an accurate statement. They cannot believe something they cannot perceive.

    Try to visualize the difference between change, as in transformation, and change one gets back when a dollar is too much. That's a total mystery to some people. Change is so scary, they'd rather not spend. I expect that for such people, plastic currency is a boon. It doesn't matter whether it's a credit or debit card, as long as they don't have to deal with change.

    by hannah on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 03:22:17 AM PDT

  •  Neither, the Preamble States It (13+ / 0-)

    in part; the framers had more to say about it outside the document.

    The Preamble includes the positive role of promoting the general welfare, then Article 1 Section 8 more specifically empowers government to levy various taxes in order to pay for the general welfare.

    Beyond that, framer James Madison, when later serving under the Constitution as President, vetoed a faith-based initiative passed by Congress to pay churches to feed and educate poor children. We have many such programs in place today.

    On the one hand he termed this an improper establishment of religion, but on the other hand he termed the goals of the project a civic duty which is obviously based on the positive role of government to promote the general welfare.

    So there's executive action and legislation on the positive role of government in promoting the general welfare, starring the author of the original draft of the Constitution and casting the clearest possible light on original intent.

    The libertarians need to change the Constitution in several fundamental ways. They're almost invariably dishonest about this, preferring to lie about what it says. No surprise, the libertarian so-called movement and party are largely the fabrication and co-option of contemporary oligarchs.

    The ideals of the Enlightenment and of democracy in general require government imposition of severe inefficiency into the economy, which left to its own devices concentrates wealth to a high degree among a tiny class of owners, top managers and some supporting professionals, leaving the masses poor and without sufficient political influence to self govern.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 05:05:44 AM PDT

  •  Initial Premise? (4+ / 0-)
    One of the RW memes that seems to have emerged in the Ayn Randian universe is that government money (what little of it there can be any legitimate reason to collect, of course) should be spent to maximize benefits for the greatest number of people,
    Really, this is what right wingers believe? what makes you think so?
    and that misuse of public money to actually help people is clearly wasteful and therefore obscene.
    This is actually what the right believes.

    I'm not sure how we can get into the "waste" topic without facing the fact we lose $200 Billion per year in lost tax revenue due to tax deferrments, tax breaks, off shoring, etc., allowed for corportions-- which certainly is wasteful and certainly impacts the efficient function of the federal government.

    "We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense." Gore Vidal

    by Superpole on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 05:36:18 AM PDT

  •  Where it concerns public well being and health (6+ / 0-)

    no argument here.  But government isn't a monolith, and we shouldn't be afraid to make efficiency arguments where that virtue aligns with the objective of minimizing harm.  In policing and criminal justice, in national security and intelligence, in determining NASA's exploration architecture, and in guarding against public corruption.  

  •  See this on the Full Employment Act (1946) (4+ / 0-)

    at a minimum, it sets forth what government should be doing...Unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity, as Congress watered it down in the final version...

    To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

    by dizzydean on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 06:22:00 AM PDT

  •  many have alluded to the Preamble (8+ / 0-)

    but I don't think it ever hurts to read the whole thing regularly:

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
    Not a word about the most efficient way to do anything, lots of prescriptions of how and what would benefit all of the People of the United States.

    Those are the purposes of government.  Efficiency is an excuse to eliminate people, marginalize them from participation in the benefits of society.   That is why nothing in the Constitution addresses the most efficient way to do something.

    But modern conservatives don't believe in the Constitution, they don't believe in Union, justice, domestic tranquility, common defence or general welfare, and they sure as Hell don't believe in securing the blessings of liberty for the people.

  •  This is why means testing is dangerous. (6+ / 0-)

    High taxes plus universal (not just for the poor) social programs allows this debate to be sidestepped so that the majority does not need to be pitted against each other by wealthy demagogues. Plus universal programs ARE efficient, since you don't need an army of bureaucrats policing people's incomes and behaviors to make sure they are worthy.

  •  like your thought provoking diary. n/t (3+ / 0-)

    "When wealth rules, democracy dies." Me

    by leema on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 06:57:56 AM PDT

  •  The role for the government is to do (4+ / 0-)

    ... for the people what they cannot do for themselves as individuals. Everything from infrastructure (roads, bridges,...) to national defense, these things require a large, central body to gather and allocate the resources necessary to get things done. This would also include programs to care for the poor and disadvantaged, medical coverage for those that need it, food assistance, etc. So I'd say "neither maximize efficiency nor minimize hardship", but if working properly both should be a side effect. Minimizing hardship should be the more notable side effect since that's the more visible of the effects, but efficiency in doing it's job is nice too.

  •  It's infrastructure (5+ / 0-)

    Just as investing in public works is infrastructure, so is the safety net.  By helping out those of our citizens who are struggling now, we are saving on social stability and a healthier economy further on down the line (perhaps even a generation or two).  So this is what I see as the key difference between conservatives and liberals on fiscal terms: the former are only concerned with short-term gains, and the latter look to the future; the former gave us the War on Terror, and the latter gave us the New Deal.  

    Col. Brandt: "What do you think we'll do when we lose the war?" Capt. Kiesel: "Prepare for the next one." --from "Cross of Iron"

    by ConservatismSuxx on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 07:30:01 AM PDT

  •  It's Our Economy (4+ / 0-)

    If we want to pay more and get better healthcare for it, that's society's call, as expressed by our laws.

    What I object to is paying more and getting less. That's what the commercial marketplace for healthcare has given us. We pay about 50% more than most advanced countries, but get no better care--and we don't even cover everyone.

    That means the whacko public/private system we have is about half as "efficient" at providing healthcare than it could be (and ought to be).

    People like Avik Roy need to understand that the healthcare system isn't a legitimate market. Profits in the health insurance industry come from the suffering and death of the insured. Healthcare is intrinsically a government service (or, at least something that should be handled by non-profits).

    And, the most efficient system would be a single, publicly-funded system because that would minimize overhead. A good public system can operate at 4-5% administrative costs, provided it is integrated and focuses on providing essential care.

    This is why I constantly propose we dump our current system in favor of a single publicly-funded healthcare system paid for out of a progressive tax. The federal government should provide that one, integrated system that provides all essential healthcare.

    My complaint about ACA is that it's entirely too privatized. It drives millions of people into the for-profit health insurance system, which is wasteful. On top of that, it's immoral to demand people pay for care they don't receive, which is exactly what's implied by "for-profit". No part of my money should be going to profits simply to administer healthcare.

    Yet, that's exactly what ACA did, and it needs to be superseded (the quicker the better) by something that is moral and much more effective.

    We can both maximize efficiency and minimize hardship. The path to that is publicly-funded healthcare at the national level.

  •  Minimizing hardship IS maximizing (6+ / 0-)

    efficiency.  It's a "big picture v. small detail" issue here.  Only in the "small detail" is it maximizing efficiency to maintain or even exacerbate hardship for sizable chunk of the population to benefit a different (and usually smaller) chunk of the population.  Is it more efficient to cover a person's health insurance - or cover that person's uninsured visit to the ER?  Or deal with that person's dead body?  Covering a low-income person's child support permits that person to work at all.  Back in the "Contract on America" day Newt was strongly in favor of orphanages over welfare to single moms - until he discovered that (at the time) welfare for single moms was about $7K per year even for families with multiple kids while orphanages ran over $20K per kid.  Once you've looked at the whole situation, it's always more efficient to reduce hardship.

  •  For me paying taxes (5+ / 0-)

    that benefits others also benefits me.  I don't want to live in a place with starving people living in slums.   My motivation is basically  selfishness. Take a walk through a 3rd world nation and then tell me you want to live in such a place?  

    Why do conservatives seemingly want to live in a place with starving and dead people?

    •  They suffer from the illusion that they (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      can successfully detach themselves from the rest of humanity, in their separate schools, gated communities, private islands,  expensive resorts,  remote estates, and private travel arrangements and enclosed climate controlled skyboxes.    Those arrangements are only going to work up to a point.  

  •  Finanical efficiency (2+ / 0-)

    is your number two goal; your first goal is to properly manage the revenues and expenses to maintain your assets.

    Compare to home ownership. It's more financially efficient to place a bucket under a leaky ceiling than to fix the roof. But if you want to maintain the value of the asset, you have to repair or replace the roof, even if you want to spend the money on something else.

    I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

    by CFAmick on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 08:50:30 AM PDT

  •  Missing some distinction here. (3+ / 0-)

    "...since when is the government obligated to spend money efficiently?"

    Always. The piece that's missing here needs to be that efficiency is desirable in achieving a policy outcome, which in itself may or may not be considered to be efficient.

    It would be far more efficient to allow the mentally ill to roam the streets without resources.

    But that would not achieve the preferred outcome of both providing caring for and possibly guarding against the mentally ill. Within that imperative, it's desirable to not waste money.

    Roy's problem - as you're pointing out - is they are conflating efficiency of execution with the efficacy of the solution; if it costs what he considers too many tax dollars, it's a bad or unnecessary solution to the problem.

    And since Roy doesn't like Obamacare - the Manhattan Institute he touts is a conservative 'think' thank, after all - that program, whatever good it's doing, no matter how well it is run, is an inefficient failure.

    "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

    by grape crush on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 08:52:48 AM PDT

    •  Of course you are correct (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And I was taking some liberties with my rant.  Liberals need to care about efficiency as much as conservatives, we never want to be on the side of "wasting" public resources.

      But I argue that efficiency cannot be the abiding principle when dealing with administration of public services.  The Post Office is the obvious example - if efficiency were paramount, many rural residents would rarely or never receive mail directly.  The average user pays more so that the last mile is achieved for everyone, at what would otherwise be an extreme cost.

      'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none go just alike, yet each believes his own. - Alexander Pope

      by liberaldad2 on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 10:29:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But I argue that efficiency cannot be the abiding principle when dealing with administration of public services.

        Yup. That's why all the talk about 'running the government like it's a business' and 'President-as-CEO of the country' that pops up around election time bothers me so much. Government isn't a profit-seeking business, and you can't 'fire' a citizen from the country if he or she loses heir job or is underperforming (whatever that would mean given the context.)

        "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

        by grape crush on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 11:59:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Band, Tribe, Chiefdom or State? What do they want? (3+ / 0-)

    These guys must think we still live in bands of 12-to-60 people or even small tribes of 60-to-400 people having no need for redistribution of goods, services or "capital"/$-(money). But we live in States That Absolutely Must Provide Clean Water and Public Health Amenities To Everyone. A justice system is required to have those two infrastructures and an educational system (not "home-schools") is required to be able to have a "justice" system. Anything that deprives people of Clean Water and/or Public Health must be eliminated. Unfortunately, anarchy cannot ever make available these two requirements of a State. Ayn Rand never understood that fact. Well, She's dead and gone now...let's move on. This ain't a free-for-all way of life as those guys want to say they want as they live here in the land of the wannabe free drinking water stolen from you/me/we.

    Abandoning/killing elderly people, choking widows, infanticide, living in constant fear of being attacked by viruses and myriad lifeforms running the gamut from bacterial through 380 foot trees that can fall on you and 18 foot giraffes that can kick the *^&$ out of you (so-called "terrorists") are customs we had largely ignored in the U.S. until recently when certain "Right Wing" sociopaths and corporatist trolls have stirred us back into terminal paranoia that requires intervention by one or another of those Public Health Amenities we need to preserve and strengthen.

    The proper role of government is to deliver what we need for Clean Water and outstanding Public Health. Yes, that does force us to accept regulation of the details in which devils reside.

  •  Definitions, definitions (3+ / 0-)

    Unless you solely define economic efficiency on the maximization of corporate profits, just about any reasonable definition of efficiency would be unachievable without broad and deep alleviation of hardship by government, directed by people who know a thing or two about macroeconomics and don't think efficiency == "everything I learned in ECON101" (usually an introduction to introduction to microeconomics; your typical ECON101-wielding politician has some vague clue about supply and demand involving a transaction with two people and think that equals an entire economy).  

    Part of where we've gone wrong is starting around 1970 a manic focus on corporate profitability as being the be-all-and-end-all.  The resulting inequality means a vast opportunity cost of people who can't afford to participate in the system and are therefore inefficient, and one step up from them, businesses and public services that struggle because of that lack of participation.

  •  Economic advancement, that is, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    raising the standard of living for the whole community.

    Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

    by dadadata on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 11:29:18 AM PDT

  •  Seeing suffering (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I can not look away from suffering and say those poor  people are always with us.  When my well-being is effected by massive poverty what does "nation" mean?  Why do we pay taxes?  Especially why do we pay taxes when we have criminal corruption, wars of choice and waste of the taxes we pay?  And why would we fight wars of empire and financial policies that add to the poverty and suffering in our own country.  I am inclusive and they are exclusive so they demonize.  Their "ideology" funnels money to the top 1%, but they think they are friends with the 1%.

  •  nicely done (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    liberaldad2, thanatokephaloides

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 12:19:32 PM PDT

  •  Trick question (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    liberaldad2, thanatokephaloides

    You can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    I was a liberal when liberal was cool, I was a liberal when liberal wasn't cool, but I always was and always will be a liberal.

    by LemmyCaution on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 01:57:12 PM PDT

    •  No doubt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I was referring to prioritization.  Consider my public transportation example, or the Post Office as another example. If efficiency is paramount, the least favored who are also the most costly will be sacrificed first and will suffer the most.

      'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none go just alike, yet each believes his own. - Alexander Pope

      by liberaldad2 on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 07:11:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  proper function of government (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The proper function of government is to mitigate the pernicious effects of capital.

  •  It's a result of an already-played language trick (3+ / 0-)

    When a conservative says, or more often implies, that it is the duty of government to spend tax dollars as "efficiently" as possible, he or she is building on a prior assumption -- one that has already passed into public consciousness, that government is analogous to business. Government is an expression of collective will and collective force, and thus it cannot be compared to business, which is private. I'm not just talking about profit, either. Government does not provide a service product, nor a commodity product. It acts.

    What's more, the conservatives deny that government is us. Government is always "it" or "them," so the right wing individual will go on to say, "Government has my money and should give it back to me, if it doesn't need to spend it on something worthy." She will default to the position that money simply is, that "government" is an enemy force, and that all money comes from and belongs in the hands of the individual. The individual, they believe, is the creator of wealth (of literal wealth), against which any thing not individual is a "parasite" or enemy.

    Their assumptions are demonstrably false, but they've succeeded in getting them into the inaudible background noise of media discussion.

    "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

    by The Geogre on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 05:01:33 PM PDT

  •  The proper role of government (4+ / 0-) to ensure that the goods and services that the social consensus determines should be available to everybody actually get extended to everybody.

    For things like water, sewer, garbage collection, and transportation that has meant that government builds and operates those networks in areas that would not be profitable to private provision because they affect general public health and safety.

    For education, health care, parks, recreation programs, and cultural facilities, it is because the social consensus is that income should not be a barrier to those things that can improve employability and enrich all of life.

    The track record over many decades and many countries is that these are best provided by direct services from government with strong public oversight.

    There is little controversy over the necessity for public law enforcement, courts, and corrections programs and facilities and much controversy over how they should be operated.  Private security, binding arbitration, and privatized prisons after 30 years experience have all turned out to be massive boondoggles.  And the dwindling of available publicly subsidized legal services have increased injustices and complicated many straightforward legal transactions for folks who cannot afford legal fees.  This is a part of the infrastructure that reduces the costs of conflict, crime losses, and messy family breakups.

    A regulatory environment that enforces regulations with equity and without regard to income improves the quality of living and reduces losses due to disease, retaliatory action.  Only a government with strong public oversight can provide this.

    Risk pooling is a way of reducing sharing the costs of temporary losses or life-stage adjustments to income.  Governments can manage the largest risk pools at a minimum cost (they don't have to have a guaranteed profit).  Workmen's compensation, unemployment insurance, Social Security, and disability income programs have all proved successful for providing dignity and needed income.  Being risk-pooling arrangements, only those who have had that risk occur or who have reached the age of reduced stamina claim benefits. (Just like fire insurance only benefits those folks who have the misfortune to have a fire.)  The regulation of risk pools have to guard against self-inflicted adverse situations, called "moral hazard".  That becomes harder to do to the extent that other options for income and dignity are closed off--in unaddressed recessions, geographical concentrations of policy-created poverty, and the like.  Over eighty years these programs in many countries have proven effective and only are opposed by those super-individualists who cannot conceive of the concept of risk-pooling.

    The past eighty years shows that the most effective monetary policy is when government purchases stimulate the economy and government taxation reduces the risk of inflation.  And the level of economic activity approaches full employment with the government functioning as an employer of last resort.  Under this system, government employees can create major public capital investments, like public buildings, parklands, roads and highways, historical research, archival classification and preservation, and scientific research that provide lasting value and serve to lower the cost of private economic activity in peak employment periods.  The opportunities in this area in basic scientific research, renewable energy and historic preservation are immense.  The trained educated resources are mostly idle.

    The current situation in housing is that there are enough housing units in the US to have zero homelessness if there was sufficient investment to rehabilitate a portion of them to quality housing and create jobs to employ those people who cannot afford current rents and housing prices.  There is the reserve private cash to do this. But it will take government action to force and end to the inaction here, and that action is most likely to look like a tax on uninvested cash or paper securities.  The capital gains incentives that were supposed to do this job have failed to do it.

    The proper role of government is to create a social environment of peace and prosperity, creativity and inventiveness, and a dignified culture.  Some of that happens through budgets and policy, but a lot happens through the tone and diligence of public officials.  When they fail in fact to be public servants respecting their constituents, when they become tools of rich donors, when they carry on sham debates over phony issues, they fail to govern no matter how much they yammer about the "proper role of government".

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 05:46:13 PM PDT

  •  There's no conflict. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thanatokephaloides, liberaldad2

    Social insurance has been shown to be one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and innovation.  This is because life includes enormous risk, and the larger the risk pool (for example, a nation of over 300 million citizens), the better it can be managed.

    The conflict is between bigotry and shared prosperity.

  •  Based on my 60+ yrs. of experience (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the actual role of government has been to maximized hardship and to minimize efficiency. Most of my experience is jaded by military service and dealing with the VA however.

    I still believe that governments can do both of what the author noted and have seen that is several other countries. I do not know if the dynamics of the US system allow it except under very rare and unusual circumstances (e.g. Lincoln, FDR).

    And I am Kilrain of the 20th Maine. And I damn all gentlemen. Whose only worth is their father's name And the sweat of a workin' man Steve Earle - Dixieland

    by shigeru on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 07:48:39 PM PDT

  •  It's neither. It should be our agent of change. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thanatokephaloides, liberaldad2

    We waste a unique opportunity by keeping government on the sidelines when it comes to collective action to radically improve quality of life for everyone.

    That should be its number one goal and usage. To fundamentally transform the environment and society into the best possible home for the highest possible quality of life -- for everyone.

    Right now, the number one goal and usage of government is to protect, promote, defend, expand and bail out capitalists and capitalism. Everything else takes a backseat to that.

    We have long wasted the chance to utilize our government to do what it should do:

    Maximize quality of life for all, in harmony with the planet.

    Instead, it has done all it could do to maximize profit and capital for the already rich.

    No mas. It's time to end that regime and replace it with a new mission.

  •  I reject the premise of the question (0+ / 0-)

    There is no one proper role of government, just as there is no one proper role of a doctor or cop. Such either/or questions are trick questions intended to divide, not help. Government has many proper roles. Always has.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:35:31 AM PDT

  •  The key is to borrow money from your parents (0+ / 0-)

    and start a business, instead of being a non-successful drain on society, part of the 47%,-Mitt Romney, Dumbkoff & GOP candidate for President.
    The diarist mentioned Ayn Rand and current popular philosophy discussed by certain politicians and others. Ayn Rand's dad had a successful pharmacy in pre-revolution Russia. Bolsheviks took it. There went her security and membership in the successful class of people. My take on her history is that she was an angry, bitter woman, who spent the rest of her life bitching about it, taking a shortcut and classifying people into doers and takers, ala Mitt Romney and others. So I read Ayn Rand was on Social Security. Don't know if she paid into it. Probably not. I also read in Wikipedia Ayn Rand was on amphetamines part of the time, legally, prescribed by Dr. Whatever. That explains some of her grandiosity. The GOP are fond of simplistic, symbolic expressions to grab the attention of voters who don't bother to look any further. Most of the prominent RW mouthpieces did have some wealth to begin with, except certain grifters, like Glenn Beck & Sarah Palin who shill for the wealthy. Romney, Limbaugh, Bushes and many others all had a "good start" and feel entitled to blame people who didn't. Lots of dumbasses like it, agreeing they are just lazy, voting with their tormenters. Dems seem more prone to promoting a happy medium and leaving a little help for the temporarily inconvenienced millionaires, in spite of themselves. Does not seem like a difficult choice to me, 'cause you can get rich under Dems, while getting a break once in awhile.

    •  I actually LOVED Ayn Rand (0+ / 0-)

      when I was in college, especially "Atlas Shrugged." I knew her social philosophy was BS (I skimmed over those parts), but her plots were fascinating. I remember staying up all night to finish "Atlas" and recommending it (as fiction) to a lot of my friends. Even her philosophy forced me to think about what I believed in - turned out to be the opposite of her, but at least she got me to think about it.

      "Who is John Galt?!" Sigh!!

      'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none go just alike, yet each believes his own. - Alexander Pope

      by liberaldad2 on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:24:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The proper role of government derives from it's.. (0+ / 0-)

    purpose.  The purpose of government, I go with Jefferson on this:

    We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and Happiness; That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying it's foundation on such principles and organizing it's powers in such form, as to them shall seem the most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
    From this, the principle purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people.  All other things come from this.  We do not create government to protect us from government, that is an oxymoron.  We create government to protect us from other people, people who would abuse your rights for their benefit.

    Corporations are the ultimate expression of a person who would subsume your rights for their profit in a heartbeat.  This is why we need a government large enough and strong enough to coerce even the richest of people and the most powerful corporations to comply with the rights of others (ie, not selling them cancerous products, cars that blow up, or pay poverty wages.)

    The next purpose of government is to help citizens (and in the larger context, the world) better themselves through ensuring vital services are provided.  On this point many may argue that this goes beyond the mandate for protection.  In my analysis, freedom for a people means more that just the removal of restraint.  True freedom is in having your own resources.  The migrants to America certainly understood that, because to have land was to be free.  When nobles own the land and charge rent, there is no freedom.  Therefore, freedom requires that people have access to the basic need of life as well as being free of restraint.  This requires a commons that can sustain the population.  This is where private ownership and the needs of the commons conflict.  In this case, the government, to have a free people, needs to have a large enough commons to provide the basic needs of the people.  Once basic need are taken care of, then private enterprise can flourish.

  •  Republican optimization theory: (0+ / 0-)

    "Efficiency" is the rate at which money is transferred to the richest. High "efficiency" means the rich can use any scheme they like to soak the poor (or the public treasury).

    Government regulations that slow this natural market process down, even slightly, are grossly inefficient... not to mention unnatural, unBiblical, and unAmerican.  They are an attempt to force eggheaded Socialist Black Mooslim faggot Communist towelhead Marxist Sharia law onto red-blooded, gun-loving Americans -- who will defend their right to be soaked by the rich to the death, or until they can no longer afford to buy ammunition, whichever comes first.

    American Presidents: 43 men, 0 women. Ready for Hillary

    by atana on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 08:38:31 AM PDT

  •  "Washington D.C. is a city of northern charm... (0+ / 0-)

    ...and southern efficiency."

    JFK' s quip hold more wisdom that we knew. "Southern efficiency" still consists of a powerful few keeping their labor force on a short leash.

    Today, it's not our labor they want, so much as our continued payment of interest on credit cards, mortgages, student loans, insurance premiums, etc.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 12:41:48 PM PDT

  •  Government Role (0+ / 0-)

    Even that icon of Randian ecnomics Milton Friedman asserted in a 1970 article in the NYT that while the role of management was to maximize profits for shareholders, it was to be done within the laws of the land and societal norms of ethics.   it is of course the societal norms of ethics that inform the making of laws nes pas.   further competition was to be fair and open, free of fraud and deception.

    Not quite a quote but close.  he was one of the economists discussed in class when I was doing my MBA work.  When a firm or industry pollutes the air people breath, the water they drink and the soil they depend on for food they inorder to avoid the cost of managing those wastes they are as we say in economics externalizing an internality.

    Someone one else bears those costs - Friedman's philosophy depended on the societal norms of ethics (not profit maximization) to keep those potentially destructive tendencies in check via we the people at the ballot box electing officials to represent our collective interests.

    Also read the book," The Entrepreneurial State:..." on how much of businesses owe to the investment in infrastructure, R&D, technology development, etc run by our government on behalf of we the people.

  •  A whole bunch of RW hypocrisy (0+ / 0-)

    First off, nobody in the history of reality has ever said government should be efficient with taxpayer dollars.  What people DO believe is government should be RESPONSIBLE with taxpayer dollars.  The RW ideologues just assume that responsible and efficient are the same thing.  Hell, they don't even think that in reality.  What they really think is government should just completely get out of the way of private profiteering in as many areas of life as possible.  They just propose that ridiculous idea as being "efficient" with tax dollars.

    But even the whole efficiency thing is a big steaming pile of garbage since many studies have come out showing that in many areas, government is far more efficient than privatization, but the RW will have none of it.  Single Payer health care is far more "efficient" than private health care but of course in those cases the RW would gladly have people going bankrupt in order to not die from sickness than to have a cheaper or "more efficient" system.  So they clearly don't care about efficiency at all either.

    The point of government is, at it's most basic, is to represent with will of the people. So unfortunately, if the will of the people is to have idiots running government, that is what will happen.  If the people want government to spend taxpayer dollars completely inefficiently, that is what will happen.   On a more realistic level, the point of government SHOULD be to help create a prosperous society for its citizens.  Or as you have put it to minimize hardship.  But even then, the RW would define prosperour as "rich" and/or "powerful and as we are now seeing, that definitely doesn't translate to a prosperous society.  Instead, it creates greater inequality and hardship.  They would argue they are trying to minimize hardship because jobs and freedom and such.  

    At this point I think it is fair to say that everything the right wing and conservatives do is really just designed to help the richest minority get richer, more powerful, and have more control over our society.  Just like they used to in the good ol' days of serfdoms.

  •  I'm always surprised by the RW (0+ / 0-)

    They claim to be Christian, but assert appalling unchristian beliefs (hate, racism, homophobia). They claim to love democracy, yet believe none of its tenets. They claim to love America... but hate Americans. They claim to understand economics, but... well, you know the song.

    Nice demonstration from the Science Fair experiment. Did you tell the kids or let it ride (erm, sorry. Couldn't resist)?

  •  there is no grand theory at work here (0+ / 0-)

    stop giving these pieces of shit credit for some intelligent theory.  there is nothing but naked hatred, sadism and greed at work and that is the definition of the evil called conservatism.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Riane Eisler

    by noofsh on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:38:22 PM PDT

  •  a little primer on how the wealthy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    escape the taxman(and yes, it IS a bi-partisan pastime)

    But even though they avoid taxes like the plague, many of these elitists have the gall to call for higher taxes on all the rest of us.

    For example, let's review what the managing director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, said in a recent interview....

    "Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax."

    Even more than she thinks about all those now struggling to survive without jobs or public services? "I think of them equally. And I think they should also help themselves collectively." How? "By all paying their tax. Yeah."

    It sounds as if she's essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe, you've had a nice time and now it's payback time.

    "That's right." She nods calmly. "Yeah."

    And what about their children, who can't conceivably be held responsible? "Well, hey, parents are responsible, right? So parents have to pay their tax."

    Well, it turns out that she doesn't pay any income taxes at all on her own income....

    The IMF chief Christine Lagarde was accused of hypocrisy yesterday after it emerged that she pays no income tax – just days after blaming the Greeks for causing their financial peril by dodging their own bills.

    The managing director of the International Monetary Fund is paid a salary of $467,940 (£298,675), automatically increased every year according to inflation. On top of that she receives an allowance of $83,760 – payable without "justification" – and additional expenses for entertainment, making her total package worth more than the amount received by US President Barack Obama according to reports last night.

    Her "diplomatic status" allows her to escape all income taxes.

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