I had a thought the other day about how both political parties tend to call in more government to help solve complex societal problems. It occurred to me that government intervention has become a popular solution to many problems. Bernie Sanders campaign is probably most guilty of trying solve problems with government intervention. However, every other candidate proposes at least some government intervention. What do I mean by government intervention? Well, its a fairly broad meaning phrase because government could mean any branch or department. Intervention is the operative word because essentially the government gets involved in or takes over an program or problem and tries to fix it. There is a relatively short history to government intervention as we know it today.
You can go back to ancient times to find a government intervening when its not really supposed to. However, for the sake time and word count, I want to start with the New Deal put forward by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The New Deal was constructed via Congress to help the country through the Great Depression in 1929 through the mid 1930s. I believe that it was necessary at the time. However, hindsight being 20/20, it was actually World War 2 that got us out of that depression. (Just remember that once World War 2 officially started, the US switched its economy to war production. For example, Car companies made Jeeps and Tanks) The New Deal is still important even today because it gave us things like Social Security and National Parks.
The Great Society was pushed through Congress by Lyndon B. Johnson in the mid 1960s. This landmark bundle of legislation was the start of things like public housing, voting rights act, federal education funding and the war on poverty. The Great Society was hailed by some as the second New Deal. Most of the Great Society still is in existence today. However, now its has taken quite a bit further. For example, when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was first passed it just helped grade schools and gave funding for schools. Now this act has turned into a loan program for college. Funding for grade schools now is most by taxpayers and education subsidizes based on things like common core. Some of Great Society has also been repeal or stripped down. Unfortunately, one of the best pieces of legislation was the Voting Rights Act. It give colored minorities the right to vote. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court reversed some of the provisions in the act. This has allowed states to discriminate voters.
The New Deal and Great Society are both examples of government intervention. Another modern example is the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare). Once again, this law mandates everyone get insurance otherwise they will be penalized. My point in explaining all this legislation is that government intervention can take many different forms. It can touch a variety of topics and issues. If history teaches us anything about broad sweeping government intervention its that its not very successful. You can find examples like Social Security going broke and the repeal of provisions in the Voting Act. Even in the war on poverty has struggled to truly help those impoverished. So what is the problem you ask?
I’m glad you asked. The problem is not that the government tries to help. The problem is that government is bad at helping. Especially now with our web of bureaucrats who pass most of the laws and create most of the policy. The decision makers in government are not usually experts on the problem or issue they are trying to fix. This is a problem because for example take education. (I was nearly a teacher at one time) When the Department of Education decide to push Common Core on schools there was some major problems. The first problem is that it tied teachers performance to test scores. The tests were way too hard for the students. The system was implemented too fast and both teachers and students suffered. Of course, the creators of common core were not teachers but textbook executives and other government officials. As a result, now the Common Core has faced vast criticism and will soon be repealed.
As you can see in education, the government just is not good at fixing things. A better solution to higher performing schools would been through the local districts. Each local school district knows its students and their needs. The teachers of that local school district should have decided the curriculum best fit for their school. In addition to that, the legality of Common core is questionable because the constitution leaves education to states under the 10th amendment. Government intervention can also be questionable from a legal standpoint. The same type of legal questions come up with Obamacare. The Supreme Court did rule in favor of the healthcare law. However, my point is that government intervention isn’t necessary the best answer for every problem.
Now I want to explain quickly why I think today’s politicians especially ones running for president are using too much government intervention. The simple answer is that we already have too much government in our business. The long answer is that government intervention has already tried to solve many of the problems and failed. You have to admit its insane to keep trying the same thing and expecting a different result. Let’s use our vast intellectual resources to solve problems. For example, many democratic candidates want to raise minimum wage to help the poor. But what these candidates ignore is the fact that minimum wage actually hurts the poor more than it helps. Why not ask an economist if its actually a good idea?
Another example: Republicans want to stop illegals from coming here. I don’t really think a wall is going to work, Donald. I think a better solution that is also bipartisan would be to grant amnesty to upstanding immigrants. Then once those immigrants are citizens give them some higher taxes. Our tax code already discriminates so there is really no difference. Extra taxes means more money for our government to waste plus it might deter some people from even wanting to come here. Many European countries have much tougher immigration policies based on ethnicity. So why not make ours economically tough?
Like I titled this post, I feel that government intervention is a problematic solution. Government may have the resources and power to solve problems but it has none of the knowledge and experience. I guess its a bit of an irony. Just remember before you consider voting for a candidate who wants a lot of government based programs that government isn’t very good at running things. Usually a government program is more expensive and time consuming. Government’s job is just enforce laws and regulate. I think our government has overstretch its bounds.
Thanks for reading!