“Less Government” and the Social Contract

A re-post for the upcoming election season – not that it changes anything

“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.  They would turn government back to before the Roosevelts – both Franklin and Teddy.  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.  They affirm that there is nothing wrong with vast income inequality.

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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10 Responses to “Less Government” and the Social Contract

  1. sojourner says:

    “…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.”

    What allegiance does this pipsqueak member of the masses owe this system of government? Nada, zilch, none, absolutely nothing!

    By the way, there were two of these agencies/devices, which supposedly exist to aid the people, that I wish they would do away with: public education/Department of Education. They can get rid of these two mind-control devices anytime they like! And although most Mericans wouldn’t see it this way, at the moment, their children, in the long run, would be much less indoctrinated/brainwashed and more than likely, much better informed, less volatile and more imaginative/creative, even if they had to self-educate!

    Take it from a former teacher who saw how this system works from the inside!

    Yes sir, one more time through this every four year farce. And you have eight more years of it than I do! Are you fed up yet?;-)


    • toritto says:

      Sojourner – I don’t think much of “education” in the public school system these days either. Seems to me all they turn out are drones incapable of independent thought – suitable for the jobs the corporatists want to fill. On the other hand I’m not yet ready to do away with public education – too many parents cannot possible educate their own children. Regards


      • sojourner says:

        No, I know.

        And yet I know parents who have sold their homes, rented and done without other “dream” items in order to home school their children. And in every case, the children have been better off for it. There are also homeschooling organizations all over the country that are set up to help working and non-working parents.

        But having said that, I know, too, that not every parent can get this done at the moment.


  2. beetleypete says:

    So that’s the ‘American Dream’ then Frank? Anyone can be anything they want, as long as they can afford it. Not that different here, but we still have free health care, a decent free educational system, and some provision for the lower echelons of society. For now, at least.
    Love the ‘Novecento’ music clip. I’m a great fan of that film.
    Best wishes from England. Pete.


  3. DesertAbba says:

    And I was 20 in that same year. Here, fifty-five years later, little has changed. It seems the ‘history’ you sketch so well is all ’round us, not the past at all. Still the likes of you and me are comfortable enough that our ‘rage’ is little more than word-whimper. I don’t mean we should not express our anger in print, but I’m afraid that Hedges is correct in assuming nothing will change until the tipping point finally brings masses to the streets. Call it revolution, call it whatever, it’s gotta happen.

    Trump may be a joke, but don’t forget we elected the voice of ‘Twenty Mule Team Borax,’ a rather poor actor, to lead the free world; to say nothing of the guy who in his retired presidency produces ‘art’ that looks like ‘paint by numbers.’ It may get worse before it gets better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toritto says:

      Abba – Hedges is probably right – we enjoy the illusion of freedom – “free speech” – so long as we don’t actually DO anything. I don’t think anything will change unless and until things get really bad. What me worry? That’s for my kids and for young people to address. Regards


  4. jfwknifton says:

    An excellent blog post. Over here in England, I think we are increasingly beginning to miss the influence of a genuinely caring Christian church. Years ago, they frequently used to set the standard of what behaviour was unacceptable by either governments or corporations. In those days, a genuinely socialist Labour Party was a lot more in evidence too.


    • toritto says:

      Hi John – While the Catholic Church has been much more outspoken recently due to Pope Francis, the fundie protestant churches here remain wedded to Republicans especially over to the abortion issue and now gay marriage. Fundamentally Calvinist in outlook. We won’t get any help on safety net issues from them. Regards.


  5. Pingback: Death of a Playboy – from the History Archive | toritto

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