Monday, December 9, 2013

How About a Medium-Sized Government?

In an age of anorexia and obesity, the middle ground remains the healthiest. It’s true for the human body and it’s true for our government.

Liberals and conservatives can agree, privacy is important. Neither wants the NSA snooping on them.

Conservatives and liberals can agree, toes don’t belong in meat. Neither wants a total lack of government.

Both sides are too fearful of the other. A website,, has recently been launched, with tech giants AOL, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo banding together to take a stand against government’s role in internet spying and data collection.

Free-market types should like this. Hippies should like this.

Conservatives are afraid of government being too big, and so they go to extremes in the opposite direction, trying to “gut” programs. But certain social safety nets are important, and as the GOP is increasingly over 50, if someone tried to get rid of their government-provided Medicare and Medicaid the furor it would cause shows that government, by definition, is there to provide services.

Liberals are afraid of government being too small, often finding it difficult to cut back where and when needed. But waste, bureaucracy, and spiraling costs are all negatives, often cited as the worst elements of their opposition’s administrations; ask a liberal about Reagan’s White House and hear the scathing remarks about ‘out of control spending on wasteful projects’.

Extremes aren’t useful, most of the time. That’s the difference between ideology and reason. Ideology tends to the extreme, whereas reason can see the other side of the issue, and the benefit in compromise. The polarization on Congress is due to extremes in ideology. The following chart makes that divide pretty clear:

We may not end the debate on many of their differences today, but we should be prioritizing an end to the debate of big government versus small. Neither, in ideological extremes, is healthy. Middle ground, admittedly, is hard. Compromise, often, leaves both parties somewhat dissatisfied. It requires a balance to keep the government where it should be: eating the right things to keep up energy, and shedding pounds through exercise. We can run a small debt, but not starve ourselves to weakness. We can add departments and programs, so long as 'Big Brother' isn’t an indication of obesity.

Hopefully this new website, and what it represents, will be a check to that. Big Brother needs a diet right about now: lay off the secrets. Can the tech firms be the physician that gets them healthy again?

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