Big Government Subsidizing Low Tax Red States

Here is an issue I’ve known about for years. The mapping of the data really gets me thinking, despite my have thought about it many times before.

New Study Confirms Red States Take More From The Federal Government Than Blue States

States in green or closer to green on the map above are less dependent on the federal government. States in red or closer to red on the map above are more dependent on the federal government.

So, what does this map show? It’s how much states receive in federal funding in ratio to how much they give in federal taxes. This isn’t new data, but the paper it is based on is a new assessment of the data.

I don’t want to write a long piece about this. It just is mind-blowing the difference between rhetoric and reality. States that preach small government and low taxes manage to implement such policies by being subsidized by the other states.

Many things could be said about this. One can point out the divide between blue and red states. Or one could point out the divide, in the Eastern half of the country, between the historical Civil War boundary, especially the stark contrast seen with the South. But I just don’t know. There are all kinds of factors to be considered.

I look at this map and it makes me wonder about what it means. It throws a wrench into the entire works of the mainstream frame of big versus small government. A deeper discussion about the data would be worthwhile, I’m sure. And, for damn sure, I’d like to see more and better public debate about it all across the media.

Government is Good

What Americans REALLY Think about Government

If we are asked about this issue in the abstract, 45% of us say we want “a smaller government providing fewer services,” and 42% say that we want “a bigger government providing more services”5 — a pretty even split. But then when people are asked about specificpolicy areas, much larger numbers of people say they support expanded government services. For example, almost three quarters of Americans say they want to see more federal involvement in ensuring access to affordable health care, providing a decent standard of living for the elderly, and making sure that food and medicines are safe. And over 60% want more government involvement in reducing poverty, ensuring clean air and water, and setting minimum educational standards for school. These are hardly the answers of a people who want drastically smaller government.

Table 1: Public Attitudes Toward Spending on Government Programs8

Should Spend More Spending About Right Should Spend Less Don’t Know or No Answer
Protecting the environment 59.8% 27.9% 7.7% 4.6%
Protecting the nation’s health 66.8% 25.0% 5.6% 2.6%
Halting the rising crime rate 60.9% 28.4% 9.3% 3.0%
Dealing with drug addiction 58.2% 27.9% 9.3% 4.6%
Improving the education system 69.7% 22.1% 6.3% 1.9%
Social Security 55.7% 31.9% 6.3% 6.1%
Solving urban problems 45.5% 29.8% 12.1% 12.5%
The military, arms, and defense 17.5% 46.3% 30.3% 5.9%
Highways and bridges 38.2% 47.1% 9.6% 5.1%
Welfare 16.0% 36.1% 43.3% 4.6%
Parks and recreation 34.0% 55.2% 6.1% 4.7%
Mass transit 31.7% 47.3% 9.4% 11.5%

No Turn to the Right

Another striking finding of the polls cited above is that Americans’ positive attitudes toward many key government programs have held steady for the last three decades.24 Since the 1970s, our strong support for these programs has hardly wavered at all. This comes as a surprise to many people, especially those on the right. Minimal government activists like to argue that their attempt to cut programs is simply a reaction to the public’s increasing conservatism and hostility toward government. They suggest that there has been a general turn to the right in American politics in response to the liberal excesses of the Great Society in the 1960s,  and this includes an increasing public opposition to big government. But no such “right turn” has taken place. As numerous studies have shown, “there is virtually no compelling survey evidence that more Americans have actually embraced conservatism since the 1960s.”25 Surveys that ask people to position themselves on a conservative—liberal continuum have found that the number of people calling themselves “conservative” has increased by a mere 2% since the 1960s. And a study of the public’s view of left-right issues conducted by Morris Fiorina concluded that “Americans are about as conservative or liberal as they were a generation ago.”26

Polls also reveal that negatives attitudes toward government have not increased across the board during the last decades – and some have even decreased. In 1972, when asked if government was “too powerful,” 49% of Americans said yes. But that figure was down substantially in 2002 – to 39%.27 And when asked whether they wanted to cut government services or to provide more services (even if that required raising taxes), Americans were evenly divided in 1992. By 2000, however, more than twice as many wanted to increase services (39%) than wanted to cut them (18%).28

Something has turned sharply to the right in the last 30 years, but it has not been the public. It has been the conservative leadership. A generation ago, most Republican politicians were actually moderates, in the mold of Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Nixon was probably the most conservative of these four, but he often embraced government and expanded its powers and programs when necessary to deal with a variety of problems. He signed into law the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, he helped to implement Affirmative Action, and he supported passage of a national health insurance plan. More new federal regulations were adopted under Nixon than under Lyndon Johnson. Hardly the policy record of someone who thought that we had too much government.

But conservative leaders began to veer sharply to the right in the 1980s, as Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have documented in their book, Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy. They show, for example, that the median Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives is now 73% more conservative than their counterpart in the 1970s. They also cite studies that examine how the political views of core Republican activists compare to those of independent voters. These studies show that in the 1960s Republican activists were only about 20% more conservative than independents, but that by 2002, they had become 40% more conservative.29 Hacker and Pierson conclude that “Republican activists are not only far to the right of independents, they are also far to the right of ordinary voters within their own party. And they have been heading ever more sharply right since the 1980s.”30

Part of this increasing gap between conservative leaders and many independent and conservative voters can be seen in their diverging attitudes towards the value of government programs. This is clearly evident in the results of the polls cited earlier on how much the public supports spending on various government policy efforts. These surveys reveal that those who oppose the conservative leadership’s agenda of cutting vital government programs are not just liberals – they include many independents and conservatives as well. Only about 20% of the electorate identify themselves as liberals; and yet the figures in Table 2.1 show that upwards of 90% of Americans believe we should not be cutting spending on health, education, environmental protection, and so on. This means that very large numbers of people who see themselves as moderates or independents support these government programs. And since over 30% of Americans identify themselves as conservative, clearly many of them too do not want to see cuts in these areas of government responsibility. This is understandable. You could be a social conservative, for instance, who is strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay, and yet also strongly supports spending on health care and environmental protection. In any case, these poll figures provide more evidence that the anti-government movement’s policy agenda of slashing funding for many of these programs is not only at odds with the views of most Americans, it is out of touch with the views of many conservatives as well – a good indication of just how extreme this agenda really is.


Anarcho-Capitalism & Stateless Society

I’ve been watching some videos on the Youtube channel Freedomain Radio. The guy who makes the video I guess is in favor of an anarcho-capitalist stateless society… which basically just seems like an extreme version of conservative libertarianism (a government so small it’s non-existent).  I got involved in a discussion in the comments of the first video and so listened to the second video to understand his perspective on stateless society.

(As an aside, I found the ending of the first video amusing.  The guy stared into the camera trying to look stern, and it reminded me of my friends dad when we were kids.  My friend’s dad would shuffle into the room… shoulders slumped and belly sticking out… and, trying to look mean, he’d grumble, “Who drank my pop? Someone owes me 50 cents.”  It was, to say the least, hard to keep a straight face.  That was my emotional response to the righteous moralizing of the guy in the video.)

I’m truly perplexed why someone can be so critical of the government and yet have blind faith in capitalism.  This kind of libertarian talks about the ‘free market’ as almost a religious ideal.  In the entire history of civilization, a stateless free market has never existed on the largescale.  I added “on the largescale” because I believe such a thing might be possible on the smallscale such as in an isolated intentional community or in an isolated hunter-gatherer tribe.  I agree with Derrick Jensen that largescale modern civilization inevitably leads to oppression… or all the evidence points to this being an inevitability since there are no couter-examples that weren’t quickly crushed.

The only way to create a stateless society would be to overthrow every government which would lead to mass famine and death.  During this process, a group of people worldwide would have to systematically destroy all technology and all infrastructure.  The survivors would return to either the lifestyle of small agrarian villages or hunter-gatherer tribes.  Then and only then might a free market stateless society exist.

I actually agree with many of the criticisms pro-capitalist libertarians have of government.  My only difference is that I don’t look to scapegoat a single group.  The entire system is the problem.  If US citizens overthrew their state returning to a simpler localized governance, then some other state government (Russia or China) would conquer our then defenseless citizenry and impose a new state.  Or another possibility is that, if all government regulation and protection was dismantled, the transnational corporations would either create a new government in place of the old or make themselves into a new privatized fascist government.

This seems obvious to me.  The problem isn’t in some external force or institution.  The problem is human nature itself or rather human nature gone awry because of the problematic nature of modern society in general.  Humans simply aren’t evolved for such unnatural conditions.  If we want to elicit the moral impulses of the human species, we have to re-create the natural conditions under which human nature evolved.

The reason I felt drawn into debating the anarcho-capitalists in the comment section is that some of them seemed fairly intelligent.  They’re perfectly logical people and even are capable of supporting their arguments with evidence, but their vision of a stateless society seems like just another utopia.  Why do they believe so strongly in something that has never existed?  How is that any different than religious faith?

The guy who makes the videos does have some other videos that are quite insightful about human nature (which I wrote about in my post Victimization: Culture & Education).  He is cynical about our present society which he blames on the government, but he is idealistic about human nature.  He thinks that if the external constraints were removed and the psychological shackles were overcome, then people would manifest their inherent morality and there would be peace on earth… or something like that.  His criticisms are righteous and I agree with them to a large extent.  

However, I’m not sure why he thinks capitalism is the natural state of the human species.  If he just stopped at where his evidence-based criticism ends, then his argument would be reasonable; but he wants to go beyond the mere evidence.  I find myself annoyed whenever I’m confronted by self-certainty that verges on that of the True Believer.  Even though he is a bit too intelligent and rational to be an unabashed True Believer, he comes awfully close to it.  History is filled with True Believers who overthrew the oppressive government only to put in place a new government that was just as oppressive.

So, I took all of this seriously and wanted to learn more.  I visited a website one person recommended (Ludwig Von Mises Institute).  The person thought I couldn’t possibly disagree with him once I properly informed myself.  I didn’t take insult.  It’s possible that I could be completely wrong.  I looked around the website, read a few articles and watched a video.  It turned out not to be anything I hadn’t seen before.  It was just the typical ideas one hears from libertarians and anarchists.  As for libertarianism, I prefer Noam Chomsky… who was mentioned some on the Mises website.  These conservative anarcho-capitalists, of course, were of mixed opinion about Chomsky’s libertarian socialism.  Their criticisms of him wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before.  Chomsky is closer to my position in being critical of both state power and capitalist power.

I watched some other Youtube videos on ‘stateless society’.  The following video interested me just because of the comment section where I noticed some criticisms that were in line with Derrick Jensen’s thinking.

There was one commenter who caught my attention: mcc1789.  His criticisms went to the heart of the matter and no other commenter even attempted to refute his argument.

Ok, but what about vertical oligopolies and monopolies, as MettaliarYanto says in his response? Also, what prevents a “monopoly of force in a given area” your definition of the state?

“[I]f one starts a private town, on land whose acquisition did not and does not violate the Lockean proviso [of non-aggression], persons who chose to move there or later remain there would have no right to a say in how the town was run, unless it was granted to them by the decision procedures for the town which the owner had established.” [Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, p. 270] Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private?
 
Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private? Contracts that employees signed could have provisions forbidding strikes, organizing, etc., agreeing to pay for police, courts, doctors, stores and militaries hired by the employer.
 
Company towns had every feature which anarcho-capitalists propose, private police, courts, military, etc. Company rules were law. Buying at the company store was required by their contracts. If they sturck or formed a union, they were fired and evicted instantly. The contracts were entered voluntarily, in your sense. Since rights can be waived, exactly what stops this? The British East India Co. was its own state, ruling for centuries. Same with King Leopold’s Congo, run by his corporation.
 
“Each mining camp was a feudal dominion, with the company acting as lord and master. Every camp had a marshal, a law enforcement officer paid by the company. The ‘laws’ were the company’s rules. Curfews were imposed, ‘suspicious’ strangers were not allowed to visit the homes, the company store had a monopoly on goods sold in the camp.
 
The doctor was a company doctor, the schoolteachers hired by the company . . . Political power in Colorado rested in the hands of those who held economic power. This meant that the authority of Colorado Fuel & Iron and other mine operators was virtually supreme . . . Company officials were appointed as election judges. Company-dominated coroners and judges prevented injured employees from collecting damages.” [The Colorado Coal Strike, 1913-14, pp. 9-11]

Derrick Jensen uses the exact same argument with similar examples in his book The Culture of Make Believe.  I was happy someone went to the effort of typing up such perfect quotes.  I was feeling too lazy to do it myself.

As the commenter clearly points out, anarcho-capitalism has already existed in the towns owned by mining companies.  The problem isn’t in creating a privatized government.  That is easy to do if there is no strong state government to regulate against it.  The obvious failure is that this leads to fascism and not freedom.