Kudos to an excellent column by Glenn Reynolds linking the growth of government—and what he calls the “web” of patronage that radiates from it—to the decline of civilizations. We have always believed that the only way to really counter government corruption, at least in a Western society that values individual liberty, is to reduce the scope of government. Wouldn’t it be nice if most companies simply didn’t see the need to hire lobbyists, or pay bribes, because there weren’t that many areas in which the state would be inclined to interfere in their businesses? Wouldn’t it be nice if the only way that a government bureaucrat could steal were to raid the petty cash box, as opposed to misappropriating funds via the countless overlapping, unaccountable ways that the government spends our money?
Most government programs are enacted largely to mitigate the effects of other government programs. In turn, each program has its own constituents who know how to work the system to keep their goodies. Liberals like to think of complex legislation, like Obamacare, as a piece of exquisitely-engineered and finely-tuned machinery, with savvy operators balancing the various mechanisms and behavioral responses to achieve their desired ends. (Actually they think of the whole economy this way.)
In the case of Obamacare, much of the purported problem that it was intended to solve—that many Americans do not consume enough health care—largely came about due to government programs, such as the tax treatment of employer-provided health insurance and the hyper-regulation of the health care and insurance industries, which create all kinds of distortions in the market such as de-linking supply and demand for health care. Beginning with the premise of making health insurance mandatory, then subsidizing it, the law includes hundreds of provisions to mitigate the iterative incentives and distortions layered upon one another in pursuit of these objectives.
We are reminded of a relative who takes around 15 prescription drugs each week. Two of them are supposed to treat certain diagnosed ailments, and the other 13 are to counteract the side-effects of those two and among themselves.