Government is not going away
By Arnold Kling
In an interview, Jonathan Rauch says,
When you get right down to it, there doesn’t seem to be really much of a constituency in this country for reducing the size of government in painful or unpleasant ways. Even Barry Goldwater, when he ran for president, announced that he wouldn’t cut any farm subsidies, for example.
Government is an enormous ecosystem. It is, in its way, as decentralized and unmanageable as the ecosystem out there in nature. You can change the input and you’ll get some change in the output, but if I’ve learned one thing in 25 years in Washington, it’s that there far too many interests and actors for any politician to do more than work the margins. But working the margins is very, very important.
For the viper pit of squabbling interest groups is us. There is no hidden consensus out there waiting to be plucked down by a visionary or a healer. Absent such a consensus, reform efforts such as Gingrich’s (or Clinton’s, in the 1994 health effort) are inevitably polarizing, and so are swatted down by the public as “extreme.” Afraid of causing such a polarization, politicians discuss reform in only the vaguest terms, and so an electoral mandate for concrete change is rarely delivered.
The interview also refers to a piece that puts Rauch in the Pigou Club.
the most efficient way to get started is also the simplest, albeit not the easiest politically: tax carbon emissions. “At around $30 per ton of CO2 over a 25-year horizon, experts seem to think this is the kind of price that will encourage the kind of technologies that are necessary,” says Billy Pizer, an environmental economist at Resources for the Future, a Washington think tank. That would translate into an additional 27 cents or so on a gallon of gasoline and about a 20 percent increase in residential electricity bills (more like 34 percent for industrial users). Unpleasant, but hardly radical. Perfectly do-able, in fact.