[FoRK] Time Asymmetry of Government: Terminal Stage Approaching

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Fri May 28 08:53:43 PDT 2010

On May 28, 2010, at 10:09 AM, Jim Whitehead wrote:

> I agree that no human institution lasts forever. But, Ridley's book, from what I understand, is making a stronger argument: no governmental institution lasts forever *and* the end is near for our government. I was addressing my comments to the more controversial part, that the end is near. I don't buy it.

Clearly if the former is true, the second is true;  government institutions are human institutions.  Re:  the end being "near" --- that depends on the meaning of "end" and "near."  I suspect that you are taking a rather rigid interpretation of both;  my read of the article, which may admittedly be a bit generous, is that "end" means "changed significantly" and "near" means "cannot maintain current state without such change for much longer, i.e., within the order of a generation."

>> Straw Man Variant #2:  find some data and claim that it refutes an argument other than the one being made, whether or not it is sufficient even for that purpose.
> The original article said, "But…governments gradually employ more and more ambitious elites who capture a greater and greater share of the society’s income..."
> I used GDP as a proxy for "society's income" and government spending as a proxy for "capturing share".
> Where does this reasoning break down?

First, you're failing to appropriately account for scale-dependencies in GDP.  That's a common problem when relying on government-curated data, btw, not particularly your own issue.  The second, though --- you're making some assumptions about government spending (i.e., that it's somehow going to level out, decline, etc., both absolutely and relative to GDP) that is unsupported either by further argument from you or by the facts (i.e., entitlements just don't go away, the demographic writing is on the wall, etc.)  

Okay, so you disagree.  I get it.  Now tell us why and convince us that you're right, rather than just laying out some of that feel-good religion that's so common these days.  (And understandable:  after the hell of 8 years of Bush a little feel-good is warranted;  I'm a bit dismayed, though, that it's obscuring recognition of much less addressing the current and new crop of issues.)


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