SMALL GOVERNMENT….John Hawkins has an interview with Milton Friedman today over at Right Wing News. There’s some interesting stuff there, but one exchange in particular reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to blog about:
John Hawkins: So would you favor for example a 3/5th’s majority to raise taxes like they suggested in the “Contract with America”?
Milton Friedman: Yes. But the example that comes to mind really is the Colorado Tax And Expenditure Limitation Amendment that requires the spending to increase no more from year to year than population and inflation.
That got me to thinking: what if the United States had enacted a spending limitation like this in the year I was born? What would the U.S. budget look like today? Let’s see:
Federal budget in 1958: $82 billion
Let’s multiply this out: 82 * 5.19 * 1.68 = $715 billion. This compares to an actual budget for 2003 of about $2,140 billion.
Now, I don’t know about Friedman himself, but the small government conservatives who applaud this kind of proposal are usually the same people who favor a robust defense budget. In round numbers, defense requests in 2003 amounted to about $380 billion plus another $100 billion or so for military retirements and veterans programs.
So that leaves $235 billion for everything else. We can hardly do without courts or prisons or roads (a few of them, anyway) or embassies, and those things plus a few other necessities would eat up $235 billion pretty quickly.
So: no Social Security, no Medicare, no EPA, no NASA, no foreign aid, no National Institutes of Health, no national parks, no disaster assistance, no housing aid, no FDA, no OSHA, no unemployment insurance, no nothing. Just a big military, some courts, a penal system, and a few other minor symbols of government.
Although they usually won’t admit that this is what they’re proposing, simple arithmetic tells us that this is the world that Friedman and his small government acolytes would like us to live in. It sounds remarkably similar to
North Korea Victorian England America during the robber baron era, doesn’t it?
UPDATE: A couple of commenters objected to my North Korea jibe. Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that small government radicals are in favor of totalitarianism. The problem is that I can’t think of a single liberal democracy anywhere in the world with the spending priorities I outlined above. Somehow I don’t think that’s a coincidence.