Are there “good” governments?

I’m actually with Will Wilkinson when he talks up “liberaltarianism” and I support a reasonable social safety net. I’m one of those people that thinks rising GDP indicates increasing interdependence, that that is a good thing and that self-sufficiency is the road to poverty. Today Wilkinson suggests a reason why liberaltarianism might be a non-starter:

[I]t’s easiest to get people to face up to tax increases if they don’t have the sense that they’re paying more just so the special interests of the winning coalition can get more.

Isn’t the conditional phrase an empirical fact about governments?

This reminds me of my dad and the Church. Even after all us kids grew up and he stopped going to church, he gave money to them every week. The Church does a lot of good things for people — disaster relief, poor assistance, etc — but a couple years ago my dad stopped giving. His primary reason: he thought his money was primary going to paying off molested children; it wasn’t going to help poor people. He didn’t want to subsidize corruption.

I don’t want to subsidize corruption either.

3 thoughts on “Are there “good” governments?”

  1. There are many king of things that “the State” can do, i.e. the particular institutions can vary. Ideally, the state could set and enforce rules that would allow private agents to coordinate to do stuff that they couldn’t otherwise, i.e. act like a commitment device rather than a redistribution machine… but that’s not realistic.

  2. Funny, I got into an argument with a more conservative friend over balancing the California state budget.

    Friend: “It would be balanced if we cut programs X and Y and eliminated waste.”
    Me: “Yeah but those only account for 2% of the deficit.”
    Friend: “Every little bit adds up.”
    Me: “Yeah. They add up to 2%. What about the other 98% of the deficit?”
    Friend: “Every little bit adds up. If we just cut the pork we wouldn’t have a deficit.”
    Me: “…”

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