"In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal a loaf of bread."
Anatole France - 1894
I've actually seen the line translated as "piss in the streets"
Anatole France was of course being facetious but his words are a devastating indictment of a society without a social safety net.
Routinely today we hear politicians advocating the dismantling of social security, medicare, public education, the privatization of roads, the elimination of unemployment insurance, food stamps and the minimum wage. Routinely we hear calls for repeal of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the popular election of Senators, the uselessness of the EPA, the Department of Education and most of all the IRS.
We have witnessed in Wisconsin the triumph of a blatant attack on public sector unionism, the right of individuals to organize and to collectively bargain which will undoubtedly spread to other states.
Seems all of society’s problems can be cured by "lower taxes, less regulation and smaller government", which translates into lower taxes for the 1%, less regulation for corporations and smaller government shrunk by eliminating social security, medicare, unemployment insurance, the EPA, the Department of Education etc.
One would think we are living in a John Wayne western. On the open range. All young All free.
Seems to me however that those who advocate "less government" want government to be big enough to protect property but too small to take anything through taxation from those who "have". After all, advocates of "small government" don't advocate no government. Only black flag anarchists do that. Just "less" government. A non-redistributionist government.
Small government isn't about "freedom" or "liberty". It never has been. Its about property. Big enough to protect those that have - with no obligations to those who don’t. Those who don't don't count.
Those who "have" are free.
"Small" government, we are told, is less "intrusive". Really? To whom?
If you're starving advocates of "small government" will not help you but you can bet your booty there will be a law against stealing food. In its majesty and equality the law against stealing food will apply to rich and poor alike. Can't argue with that now can we?
Read Les Mis.
If you live outdoors and are homeless the "small government" state will not help you but there will be a law against sleeping under bridges or pitching your tent in the park and it will apply in its equality to rich and poor alike. Go out in your town and see where the homeless are legally allowed to pitch a tent or which overpasses they can sleep under.
The "small government" state advocates would rather not provide public education so they will starve it of funds so as to render it ineffective. Maybe your parents can teach you how to read. In between jobs. Those that have wealth and means will send their children to private schools providing education at a profit to those who can pay. Just as they do now.
Just like it was before Horace Mann.
The elderly under "small government"would have no income or medical insurance if they hadn’t saved enough of their own low wages. Hopefully they can live with their children assuming they have children who will have them or they can look to charity to take care of their basic needs.
If not then perhaps they'd better die and decrease the surplus population. Or maybe we can bring back the county poor house?
Meanwhile corporations will face little regulation of their behavior - laws against stealing bread do not apply to them. Besides, regulations are "job killers". It must be true. The GOP says so.
"Small government" advocates want just enough government to protect their stuff. No more nor less. Not big but certainly not too small. Just right.
We will still have military. Oh yes, we will have a military. Police can be privatized and profit making to further lower taxes; the rich will hire their own security - just as they do now.
On the other hand, "small government" has never really been small. When the right talks about "getting goverment off of our backs", exactly whose backs are they talking about?
"When the Reaganites said ‘Get government out of my face and off my back" they meant no environmental laws, no workers rights, no labor laws, no consumer protections. They meant that government should leave business alone to screw you upside down and backwards anyway they please and then kick you to the curb when they are done. Squeeze you like a lemon and, when all the juice is gone, throw away the rind." (thank you F. A. - you know who you are)
It’s the government ideal of a plutocracy. It’s anarcho-capitalism.
Who benefits from such a government? The Koch brothers? Investment fund managers? The Chairman of J. P. Morgan?
Certainly not me or my family or my friends. Not working people.
As a kid I was taught (in public shcool!) that one could judge a society by how it treated the least of its citizens. We were taught the concept of the social contract. Now it seems that those with the most feel they owe nothing to the country that gave them the opportunity to amass such wealth.
They want a government which protects them from those outside the gates and allows them to amass even more with an obscene grasping materialism, while expecting nothing from them in return.
Not even taxes. Especially not taxes.
So how valid is any contract which is broken by one of the parties? If the social contract, which must be the foundation of capitalism is ultimately smashed, what allegiance is owed by the masses?
In every well-governed state, wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing. Anatole France.
Can you hear the laughter and music coming from the Winter Palace?
Well maybe not. The last Grand Duchess, Olga Alexandrovna, sister of Czar Nicholas II, died in 1960 in an apartment on Gerrard Street East, over a beauty shop in Toronto. It's what happens when, for too long, government is deaf.
The apartment in Toronto - site of the death of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna in November 1960.