“Less Government” and the Social Contract

“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal a loaf of bread.”

Anatole France – 1894

I’ve actually seen the line translated as “piss in the streets”

Anatole France was of course being facetious but his words are a devastating indictment of a society without a social safety net.

Routinely today we hear politicians advocating the dismantling of social security, medicare, public education, the privatization of roads, the elimination of unemployment insurance, food stamps and the minimum wage. Routinely we hear calls for repeal of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the popular election of Senators, the uselessness of the EPA, the Department of Education and most of all the IRS.

We have witnessed in Wisconsin and elsewhere the triumph of a blatant attack on public sector unionism, the right of individuals to organize and to collectively bargain.  Tennessee recently revoked a tax incentive to Volkswagen because of the German company’s willingness to accept a unionized plant in the state.

Seems all of society’s problems can be cured by “lower taxes, less regulation and smaller government”, which translates into lower taxes for the 1%, less regulation for corporations and smaller government,  shrunk by eliminating social security, medicare, unemployment insurance, the EPA, the Department of Education etc.

One would think we are living in a John Wayne (or a Bundy) western. On the open range. All young.  All free.

Seems to me however that those who advocate “less government” want government to be big enough to protect property but too small to take anything through taxation from those who “have”. After all, advocates of “small government” don’t advocate no government.  Only black flag anarchists do that. Just “less” government. A non-redistributionist government.

Small government isn’t about “freedom” or “liberty”. It never has been. Its about property. Big enough to protect those that have – with no obligations to those who don’t.  Those who don’t don’t count.

Those who “have” are free.

“Small” government, we are told, is less “intrusive”. Really? To whom?

If you’re starving, advocates of “small government” will not help you.  No food stamps for you; but you can bet your booty there will be a law against stealing food. In its majesty and equality the law against stealing food will apply to rich and poor alike. Can’t argue with that now can we?

Read Les Mis.

If you live outdoors and are homeless the “small government” state will not help you but there will be a law against sleeping under bridges or pitching your tent in the park and it will apply in its equality to rich and poor alike. Go out in your town and see where the homeless are legally allowed to pitch a tent or which overpasses they can sleep under.

The “small government” state advocates would rather not provide public education so they starve it of funds so as to render it ineffective. Maybe your parents can teach you how to read. In between jobs. Those that have wealth and means will send their children to private schools providing education at a profit to those who can afford to pay. Just as they do now.

Just like it was before Horace Mann.

The elderly under “small government”would have no income or medical insurance if they hadn’t saved enough of their own low wages. Hopefully they can live with their children assuming they have children who will have them or they can look to charity to take care of their basic needs.

If not then perhaps they’d better die and decrease the surplus population. Or maybe we can bring back the county work house?

See Dickens.

Meanwhile corporations will face little regulation of their behavior – laws against stealing bread do not apply to them.  In fact no laws concerning theft seem to apply to them – not withstanding that corporations are “people”.   I’ll believe corporations are people when I see Texas execute one.   Besides, regulations are “job killers”. It must be true. The GOP says so.

What “small government” advocates really want just enough government to protect their stuff. No more nor less. Not big but certainly not too small. Just right.

We will still have military. Oh yes, we will have a big military.  Police can be privatized as can roads and prisons; and profit making to further lower taxes.   The rich will hire their own security – just as they do now.

When the Reaganites said ‘Get government out of my face and off my back” they meant no environmental laws, no workers rights, no labor laws, no consumer protections. They meant that government should leave business alone to screw you upside down and backwards anyway they please and then kick you to the curb when they are done.  Squeeze you like a lemon and, when all the juice is gone, throw away the rind.

It’s the government ideal of a plutocracy.  It’s anarcho-capitalism.

Who benefits from such a government? The Koch brothers? Investment fund managers? The Chairman of J. P. Morgan?

Certainly not me or my family or my friends.  Nobody I know.  Not working people.

As a kid I was taught (in public school!) that one could judge a society by how it treated the least of its citizens. We were taught the concept of the social contract. Now it seems that those with the most feel they owe nothing to the country that gave them the opportunity to amass such wealth.  They deny that there is or should be a social contract.  Very Randian.

They want a government which protects them from those outside the gates and allows them to amass even more with their obscene grasping materialism, while expecting nothing from them in return.

Not even taxes. Especially not taxes.

So how valid is any contract which is broken by one of the parties? If the social contract, which must be the foundation of a capitalism which benefits all is ultimately smashed, what allegiance is owed by the masses?

“In every well-governed state, wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing.”  Anatole France again.

Can you hear the laughter and music coming from the Winter Palace?

Well maybe not.

The last Grand Duchess, Olga Alexandrovna, sister of Czar Nicholas II, died in 1960 in an apartment over a beauty shop on Garrard Street East in Toronto.  It’s not ancient history.  I was 18 in 1960.

It’s what happens when, for too long, government is deaf.




About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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9 Responses to “Less Government” and the Social Contract

  1. I’m not the one with the writing talent, you are.


  2. toritto says:

    Now Minstrel – How am I going to get my hat on my head?? 🙂
    Many thanks for the kind remarks.


  3. The first time I ever saw a homeless person wasn’t in the US – it was in Britain in 1973. The homeless used to sleep in the tube station at Charing Cross. It had been going on for years there and was quite regimented – with the women on one side of the stairs and the men on the other.

    It was only after Reagan began cutting the social safety net in 1980 that we began seeing homeless people in the US. The reaction of most of the public was shock, horror and shame. It’s been going on so long now that people are numb to it and take it for granted.


    • toritto says:

      Hi Doc. You got spammed again! I pulled this out of spam and posted it to my blog. Sorry.

      Yes I agree – this all started with St. Ronnie. Thanks as always for reading and commenting. Regards


  4. I liked your article. However, the plutocrats want gov’t to also dictate what women do to their bodies. THAT is big government. Also, they like when gov’t bails them out or gives them subsidies which are paid by the 99 %.


  5. Toritto please explain your last paragraph about the Grand Duchess. I didn’t understand what you were saying. Were you being facetious like A. France?


    • toritto says:

      Annscorpio – I have always considered the Tsarist government particularly deaf to the cries of the Russian people for “bread and land”. The nobility danced and partied – and heard nothing. The Grand Duchess Olga, sister of Nicholas II, fled Russia after the revolution. Born into the heights of the nobility she died in an apartment over a beauty shop in Toronto in 1960. Its what happens when government doesn’t listen for too long and the people in their desperation rise up. Regards.


  6. theminstrelscitadel says:

    I think, personally, that the Plutocrats don’t give a fig what women do with their bodies. That’s just propaganda and dogma; meant to get the Religious Right on board with the program. The only thing the Plutocrats care about is Power. Period. They work their deals with closed doors and drawn curtains and are concerned only with the apathy of the populace and the compliance of the institutions.
    You beat me to the term anarcho-capitalism – that’s exactly what it is. How ironic that the anarchists of today are the Tea Party sheeple. How absurd! I have a brother who’s been living in a HOTEL with his wife for two years because he can’t afford to move out into an apartment. (No money for the deposit, no references to get him in.) And yet, he’s a Republican. I don’t want to rub salt in the wound so I don’t ask him what being a Republican has done for him…

    As for the Grand Duchess, annscorpioolson7, I believe Toritto was using the downfall of the Russian monarchy and the death of the exiled Grand Duchess as an example of what can result of a government so far removed from the reality of its citizens that revolution results. We could never count on anything like a revolution like that here in the U.S. because too many people nowadays have SmartPhones and IPads and Nooks and Big-Screen TV’s, and are convinced that America is truly the land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The fact that there will be no Safety Net for them should they lose their jobs has not occurred to them- yet. One paycheck away from homelessness, but possessing the ability to text… Let’s put that on the scale and weigh it!


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