Theories of Governance v. Theories of Government

x-posted from FedBlog:

It’s going to be all Slate, all the time today, folks. For some reason, the little online newsmagazine has decided to write a lot about government’s role and government jobs over the past 48 hours, and if they write it, I’m more than happy to blog it. First up is this piece from Slate editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg, in which he argues that President Obama has a view of how governance should work, but not of what government should do. Weisberg writes:

“Where government cannot do something more effectively than the private sector, such as allocate private capital to maximize economic growth, it shouldn’t try. But more often, we face a complicated interplay of social ills and imperfect government responses. There are programs that succeed, programs that fail, and lots in between. The same program can work and not work at different times. Social Security flourished for decades, became unsustainably costly in the 1970s, was restored to viability in the 1980s, and has since become problematic again. That the programs that constitute the war on drugs have mostly failed isn’t a decisive argument for legalizing heroin and cocaine.

Obama’s vagueness about the federal role comes at a moment when clarity is especially needed. Our government is about to become bigger, more powerful, and more expensive to deal with a sprawling economic crisis. Washington will take on responsibilities it hasn’t shouldered in 75 years, such as directly alleviating unemployment and perhaps nationalizing banks. Many who would ordinarily reject such interventions on principle can justify them as misery relief, Keynesian stimulus, or emergency management. But some see in the expansion something further-reaching—a redefinition of the government’s relationship to markets transcending the current crisis.”

Read the rest here..

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