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Old 04-23-2010, 10:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The 'Big Government' thread: US vs EU, and whether either (or both) are doomed

Let me start by saying I'm not that well-read on the technicalities of how the government works here in the US, and I don't know shit about how it works in Europe, but as an armchair philosopher I find the "big vs. small government" question a fascinating and important one to ponder.

There seems to be a reasonable consensus these days that the US federal government is at an all-time low in its ability to function, and at least close to an all-time high in corruption. At the same time though, most people continue to view the federal government rather than the state governments as the place where the majority of big decisions (health care, drug law, gun control, abortion, immigration, etc.) should be handled. This seems to me increasingly a bad idea, not only because of the current state of politics here, but also because it hinders the kind of political experimentation that is important in the evolution of a legal system.

Much of Western Europe now seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of the U.S. in terms of everything from health care to public transport to internet service, which basically boils down to better governance, fairer business regulations and a far greater synergy between the public and private sectors (whereas in the US those sectors have become quite antagonistic to each other). What I'm curious to know is what role you guys think the political unification of Europe has had in this, if any -- whether the European Union is making '21st-Century governance' more possible for Europe, or whether it may actually be setting up Europe to be 'United States Pt. 2' by centralizing power too much and letting the wealthy elite run amok with the system. There is, after all, a major public debt problem over there, and of course many parts of Europe were hit hard by the recent financial crisis, which seems indicative of a predatory financial industry similar to the one that exists in the US.

There seem to be a whole lot of pro-EU people out there, so perhaps those of you could explain what you consider advantageous about the EU, and how it can avoid the problems that the centralization of power seems to have caused in the US. Also, if you think the problems in the US have more to do with the structure of the American government, or the American business culture, or even something else, feel free to make that case.

Hope this isn't too tldr, and thanks to anyone to responds!
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Old 04-23-2010, 11:18 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Europe and the US aren't the only 'Western World'... I thought I'd comment on this briefly because in Australia and New Zealand we have similar government set ups to those of Britain and EU (as opposed to the US).

We have had free public healthcare for decades, fantastic synergy between the public and private sectors, free education, la la la. I am strongly against centralising power because I think it can run into a wealth of problems, just like you have mentioned. I like that in Australia for example, the Prime Minister doesn't have the final word but there are a variety of different political parties that work together to make decisions. I think most people over here have a high quality of life, and that is reflected through the fact that many of our cities are ranked highest in the world for livability. Basically, I think the system we have is working incredibly well. I do think there is a strong link between societal issues and the structure of the government.
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Old 04-23-2010, 11:57 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I wasn't excluding Australia and New Zealand on purpose, I just don't find them very relevant to the thread topic (and not because I specifically named the US and EU in the thread title). There have been some pretty clear shifts in power in the US and EU over the past few decades, and the causes, effects, pros and cons of those shifts are what I'm really interested in discussing here.
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Old 04-24-2010, 12:01 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Ronnie Jane Devo View Post
I wasn't excluding Australia and New Zealand on purpose, I just don't find them very relevant to the thread topic (and not because I specifically named the US and EU in the thread title). There have been some pretty clear shifts in power in the US and EU over the past few decades, and the causes, effects, pros and cons of those shifts are what I'm really interested in discussing here.
There have been some massive power shifts in Australia and NZ as well. Australia's current Prime Minister was the first Labour member to come into power after years and years of Liberal-dominated government (Liberal means something completely different here to what it means in the US). We too have had massive health and education reforms.

But fair enough if you just want to focus on the US and Europe. I just thought you were interested in the different government power structures and how it affects societal problems so I thought I'd contribute.
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Old 04-24-2010, 12:14 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm sure I could have better articulated what I had in mind for the thread, but I didn't mean for it to be an all-round discussion of the structure of government in general. I'm mainly interested in comparing scopes of government -- i.e. federal vs. state, or sovereignty vs. globalization. I'm fine with any discussion of Australia, New Zealand or whoever inasmuch as they are relevant to that concept.
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Old 04-24-2010, 12:25 AM   #6 (permalink)
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On a related note, is there anyone who thinks it would be a good idea to abolish Medicare, Medicaid and all federal-level health programs in the US and let the States handle them individually? Our country seems unique among Western ones in having especially strong libertarian sentiments, and to try to brush over that sentiment by applying a blanket health care program across the whole country just seems really out of line with the purpose of our governmental structure and its ability to accommodate different facets of public opinion. Hawaii and Massachusetts already have their own state-wide universal health care programs I believe, and it seems logical enough to let the other liberal-leaning states follow suit.

In general, I'd really like to see more diversification in the role of government between the 'red' states and 'blue' states. I think it would also go a long way in making the federal government functional again to not have all this partisan drama crippling the political process.
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Old 04-29-2010, 11:28 AM   #7 (permalink)
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if w cancel those programs, you'd get taxed less, and there would be elderly corposes filling the streets.

I'm sure you like your money, I know I like mine. But some day we're going to be too old to work also, and what you've got in your Social Security check will not cover your medical bills.

Kilvorkian said it best, when we make it illegal for you to kill yourself, and when we don't have some social programs, we validate the Nazi execution plans of letting people wither and die with no dignity to their names.

Its a vicious lack of experience to suggest everyone should be self-sufficent, especially when talking about joint-risk ventures like insurance, and if they aren't self-sufficent "oh well." This reminds me of the video games I used to play where top-opinion suggested you should prep for mistakes, because if you are, you're not of a high enough caliber to be reading their opinions.

Not preparing for mistakes and disasters is text book, it isn't practical. And being from MA I can tell you first hand, regulation and price controls must be in the legislation because right now we're going broke trying to pay illogical and senseless premium increases.

Adam Smith never accounted for Greed. I'm guessing because he never really worked.
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Old 04-29-2010, 01:20 PM   #8 (permalink)
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On a related note, is there anyone who thinks it would be a good idea to abolish Medicare, Medicaid and all federal-level health programs in the US and let the States handle them individually? Our country seems unique among Western ones in having especially strong libertarian sentiments, and to try to brush over that sentiment by applying a blanket health care program across the whole country just seems really out of line with the purpose of our governmental structure and its ability to accommodate different facets of public opinion. Hawaii and Massachusetts already have their own state-wide universal health care programs I believe, and it seems logical enough to let the other liberal-leaning states follow suit.
As someone who's been heavily involved with socialist organisations in Ireland for some time, with all the biases that brings, I'd like to point out that the libertarian model the US suscribes to is by no means a good way to run a country. By not intervening in society, the US has created a society with minimal social mobility, in which there is no genuine safety net for the least-well off in society, breeding a host of social problems such as violence, poverty, crime, drugs, and the ghettoisation of communities. This disaster also applies to healthcare, where libertarianism has only suceeded in bring economic chaos through bankrupting the general public by leaving them incapable of meeting the costs of a private industry which cares only about profit. If individual states had always been allowed to act as they see fit, the US would still have racial segregation(in a best case scenario), and persecute Native Americans. A strong central government is crucial to ensuring that the common man is not let down by his local adminstration and the will of those around him.
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Old 04-29-2010, 07:04 PM   #9 (permalink)
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i think the biggest issue is neither big or small government but individual attitudes. the whole 'the gubmint done stole my money' angle. the indirect greed of refusing to pay taxes into social programs that would help the legitimately less fortunate because someone doesn't feel that living in a middle class environment is good enough for them because they want to keep comparing themselves to the obscenely wealthy rather than turning their perspective the other way and seeing just how much more they actually have than a lot of other citizens.

basically Europe doesn't seem to have the egocentric mentality the States wrap themselves up in - I am number 1, not we, *I*.

if people really want to abolish taxes and social programs (for fear of being labeled socialists or communists) then why bother with any form of government at all? what else is the point of government besides the betterment of your society? if you don't have any inclination to help your fellow citizen and creating a better place for future generations then what are you really doing besides crawling up your own ego's butthole? why not revert back to tribalism and survival of the legitimately strongest? (aside from the fact that you would lose big time)
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Old 04-30-2010, 12:10 AM   #10 (permalink)
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basically Europe doesn't seem to have the egocentric mentality the States wrap themselves up in - I am number 1, not we, *I*.
I find that interesting because I heard it mentioned only in Aemrica they speak collectively like "We the people..." It just might come down to personality types of the person talking, some are team players and think as "We" and some are egocentric and think "I'm numero uno."
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