Is it time to rethink the anti-government meme the USA adopted in the Reagan Years?
Ronald Reagan was a master communicator. He often turned his smile and cracker-barrel quips toward creating an abiding distrust of government among the US people. “Government is not the solution to our problem;” he said, “government is the problem.” Of course, Reagan had a specific crisis in mind when he said that, but the idea has gained the strength of a meme— particularly on the right in the US.
There is certainly some truth in his statement, “The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” But there are just as clearly limits to that truth. Consider the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and how Reagan’s logic of “Gubment Bad” would apply to it.
“If it moves, tax it.” Deepwater Horizon moved, so since taxing things that move is always wrong, oil companies should pay no taxes. Right?
“If it keeps moving, regulate it.” Drilling rigs do keep moving, so there should be no regulation of them. Same would go for automobiles, planes, ships, etc. All safety regulations and speed limits are evil and must be repealed. Right?
“And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Deepwater Horizon doesn’t move anymore. So the government should do nothing about it because any expenditure would be potentially subsidizing it and it doesn’t move now so we shouldn’t subsidize it. Right?