Standard theory views government as functional: a social need arises, and government, semi-automatically, springs up to fill that need. (see Murray Rothbard) Furthermore, and this is always true, whether or not the “need” is satisfactorily met by government action, the newly hired government employees will be the first (and sometimes the only ones) to benefit from the government expenditure.
We ought always to be clear on what part of government monies (taken of course by taxation from the people) goes to government employees and what part actually reaches the people, structures, programs in need of that funding. We ought to be told upfront what part of the dollar will go to administering the new programs.
The apparent needs for government actions are myriad. The problem is to decide which ones should become the government’s responsibility, and which ones not. And among them all what are those that may best be met by government expenditures? Roads and bridges, certainly. These may be the best examples of appropriate government actions. The expenditures probably do by and large represent the cost of the bridge itself, as well as that of the non-governmental bridge workers.
What are the needs of the people that are worst met by government expenditures? Probably all those falling under the headings of health, education, and human services. And in fact along with defense spending these three represent the largest part of the federal budget.
These programs employ government workers in the tens/hundreds of thousands, are consequently very expensive, and pretty much fail to satisfactorily meet the health, educational, and job needs of the people. And these programs continue to expand and grow.
Is there another solution? It may very well be that health, educational, and other such services are best met on the local level, where the givers (the teachers, doctors, and social workers) and the recipients (the students, the patients, and the broken families) are all members of the same community, and have therefore perhaps the best chance of becoming more responsible to themselves and to ne another, less in need of central government services. Wasn’t this how it once was?
But this is not happening. Instead, as central government roles have increased so have the responsibilities of the individuals, the families, the local communities decreased. And as a result the movement of the government programs and government dollars into an area of need accomplishes little by itself. Learning to read, for example, becoming ready to take and hold a job, being a father to one’s child, not trying drugs and going to prison, all these goals remain out of reach.