Happy Tuesday, all!! I again apologize for not having this posted yesterday. Thank you Stephen!
Socrates tells us that the unexamined life is not worth living; a natural corollary to this is that it behooves one to reexamine their positions from time to time in light of criticisms from those coming from the outside.
As readers know, I oppose the 17th Amendment and would earnestly like to see said amendment repealed. I recently posted a tweet crediting the growth in size and scope of the federal government to the 17th Amendment.
A gentleman by the name of Ed Darrell responded that my conclusion of the causation of the growth of the federal government was in error in attributing it to the 17th Amendment:
Let us then examine his hypothesis that it was an increasing size and complexity of society itself which lead to the vast growth of the government, rather than the alteration in the fundamental structure of the republic due to the 17th Amendment.
His first statement, that the 17th Amendment increased democracy, is most certainly quite correct, and indeed the very basis for my opposition to the 17th Amendment, that it undermines our republic by making it more of a democracy.
The remainder of his thesis can be separated into three essential parts: 1) that the sheer size of the corporations drove the need for a larger government; 2) simply the size of the population drove the size of the government; and 3) that the complexity of the issues drove the growth in the size of the state.
It is hard to correlate the size of business and corporations, or the size of a population, with a supposed necessity of not merely a proportionate size increase in government but a progressive increase in the size of government.
When one looks at the historic size of certain corporation prior to the growth of the U.S. federal government such as the East India Company, which was large enough to control all of India, or remember that the original colonies were corporate ventures in the model of the East India Company, one is hard pressed to imagine that it is the size of a corporation would drive the size of government.
It is difficult to imagine how you need more government to manage ten companies of a thousand people each than you do to manage one hundred companies of a hundred people each. One would think that larger companies would require less government to oversee than smaller ones, not the other way around.
There does not appear to be any logical connection between size of companies or the size of a population to the type of government growth which is under discussion. Suppose the population doubled, then one could reasonably expect the total size of the government to double, but it would remain the same percentage of GDP.
But the federal government expenditures has gone from about 2.1% of GDP, prior to the New Deal, to over 22% of GDP, in the same time the population has a little more than doubled. Which means that while the population doubled, the government is twenty times larger.
The main growth of the government appears to be from the expansion of the role of that government, primarily originating in the New Deal and its aftermath. This was followed by a slow creeping up of the size of government, with a few periods not of shrinking of the government but a decrease in the relative size in economic terms.
If it is not the size of the corporations not the number of the people, that leaves only the possibility that society has become more complex and therefore proportionately harder to govern requiring ten times as much government on the federal level alone, not counting the expansions of state, county, and municipal governments which have grown proportionately larger as well but not as dramatically.
I am left to wonder what has changed in the nature of people that ten times more people must be set about the task of regulating their activities than were once required. Are people behaving more criminally, more dishonestly, more foolishly as a proportion of the population?
I know that there is an argument somewhere in here about young people eating tide pods, but I don’t buy that argument; we have always had village idiots, now they just have access to YouTube videos to broadcast their stupidity.
Human nature has not changed so significantly that humans are harder to govern. As a biologic entity, we are no more complex in our desires, our faults, our foibles, our emotions, our intellect, our ambition, or other attributes, for good or for ill, than our ancestors. Humans are not more complex.
What about our lives could be more complex given our capitalistic endeavors striving to make our lives more simple?
While those newfangled horseless carriages traverse the roads more quickly, the courts need not be plagued with a deluge of careless, negligent, or reckless individuals. The standards of reasonable conduct have not changed merely because the mode of our transportation has, so we should not need greater government to cover bad behavior.
The basic nature of the need for food, clothing, and shelter have not altered merely because the means of production of such commodities have become more mechanized and efficient.
Yes, the machinery of modern society has become more complex. A computer is a far more complex adding machine than an abacus. A motion picture, with stereophonic surround sound and in technicolor is a more complex presentation than a stage production in your local theater or a vaudeville routine. However, do we need more government to be entertained by a complex machine than a simple one?
The complexity of our tools allows us to fancy that our lives are more complex merely because the velocity of our daily tasks are accelerated.
It seems that driving faster increases our frustration leading to road rage unheard of in the ancient past when people walked. Oedipus struck and killed a man who insisted that he give way on the road as he walked along it, so this self-absorbed conceit that road rage is a modern invention is ludicrous.
How about firearms? Piers “musket” Morgan contends that the technology of our military at the time of the writing of the 2nd Amendment only contemplated the military grade weapons of the day, the musket, and thus that society is far more complex today making the 2nd Amendment outdated.
(This ignores the fact that the most prized weapon of the Revolutionary War by the Continentals was the Pennsylvania long rifle, not the musket, and that multiple shot weapons had already been invented and were well known.)
But no matter how complex a weapon becomes, the weapon is still but a tool to effect a purpose. All tools are but merely to effect a purpose, whether complex or simple. The complexity of the technology of any society, does not alter the complexity of society. There is no bleed over of complexity from the tool to the user.
There was a time when legislatures contended with questions of whether a tariff or an excise tax ought to be raised to three cents a barrel rather than two, but such contentious debates were curtailed when they started just taxing a percentage rather than flat rates.
No, the analysis of the complexity of society is founded upon a premise that because our tools are more complex, our society must also be more complex fails to hold up under scrutiny. We must look elsewhere for the source of the growth of our governments than those suggested; until a better explanation comes along, I shall stick to my original reasoned hypothesis.