Quoth Joe Biden, in defending the party that openly supports omnipresent government (as opposed to the party that gives lip service to limit government whilst relentlessly increasing the power of government):
“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive,” he said. “In the middle of the Civil War you had a guy named Lincoln paying people $16,000 for every 40 miles of track they laid across the continental United States. … No private enterprise would have done that for another 35 years.”
I actually think Joe Biden is partially correct. Certainly in the 21st century, and for most of the 20th, every single great idea has required government involvement, as a result of government's steadily increasing ubiquity.
Where you stand on the role of government depends on this: do you think those great ideas were imagined and implemented because of government — that they required government involvement? Or do you think that great thinkers were able to bring their dreams to fruition despite government involvement? Or is it something in between?
I lean strongly towards "despite government involvement," as you may have guessed.
I think Biden is clearly wrong to use the terms "vision" and "incentive", though. First, governments don't have vision. People do. Sometimes those people are in government. Sometimes the visions are positive. Sometimes enough of the rest of the people in the government cooperate with the vision to allow it to work, and sometimes they don't. Meanwhile, the most powerful vision experienced by people in government remains staying in government, preferably with more power.
Second, many great ideas of the last three centuries have succeeded despite strong government disincentive. Take any small, medium, or large business. They succeed — if they do — despite enormous government disincentives to operate. Now, there ay be individual, isolated, and minimal incentives — say, a tax credit — but those pale compared to the overall disincentive created by government involvement. It's irrational to focus on individual purported incentives, as opposed to the entirety of the government's treatment of . After all, if you are thinking of working for me, and I promise that I will refuse to pay you, kick you in the nuts, insult your mother, and throw dung at you all day, but also say that I may give you an ice cream cone at the end of every day, would you say that I'm giving you an incentive to work for me?
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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