“What’s Going On?” by Phil Crane – Imprimis, August 1972

A series of short posts summarizing my thoughts as I work my way through the archives of the Imprimis newsletter from Hillsdale college.

Simply put this article is a warning about ineptitude of government. Crane begins the article with three assumption held in Washington in 1972 (and still relevant).

  1. The disposition to treat problems as crises.
  2. The notion that government, particularly the national government has the answer to all our dilemmas.
  3. That the mere allocation and spending of money will eliminate these problems.

Crane goes on in the article to offer up some examples by discussing the Water Control Act of 1972, attempts at a nationalized health care system, and the inefficiency of the US. Postal Service. The answer to most of these problems (then and now) is found in the quote below.

“Possibly there is still a better way. Under a truly federalist system, not only is there a division of powers within the national government but also a distinct division between the national, state, and local realms of authority. The real powers, as Jefferson pointed out, were intended to be vested in county government, and never were we to turn over to government that which is better solved in the private sector. Further, everything, unless specified to the contrary in the Constitution, should have remained in the private domain.”

In “Amusing Ourselves To Death” Neil Postman writes that the invention of the telegraph brought us information from all over the world, most of it being of a trivial nature in the sense that it had no immediate effect on the life of the person receiving it. Information intake has been growing ever since and the depth of that information is shallower than ever. Initially one effect of this was to see problems and their solutions as being of a national nature. Two world wars, the depression, and the cold war must have reinforced these views. Additionally nationalism was still cool. We are presently moving towards the view that every issue is a global issue requiring a global solution. Instead of solving the problem of poverty in our neighborhood, city or state we are now going to wipe out poverty from an entire continent (thank you Bono).

Crane ends with this remark.

“The Gulliver in our private enterprise economy is being strangled by the proliferation of Lilliputians in all phases of government. Witness the endless stream of entangling legislation, implemented by an ever enveloping bureaucracy, and enforced by a multiplying cast of alphabet agencies. A time may soon come when Gulliver will be unable to rise again.”

I think Gulliver may be down for the count. I will end with a chart of our national debt adjusted for inflation. I really don’t know a whole heck of a lot about economics but I do ask myself the question, “Is anyone else a little worried about this?”



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