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The Philosophy of Government Spending

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Scott

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The Philosophy of Government Spending

Post Number:#1  PostFebruary 20th, 2008, 11:39 pm

The Philosophy of Government Spending
by Scott Hughes

Many people wonder why governments tend to spend so much money. Almost everyone has realized that the governments spend lots of money on various projects. Governments engage in many expensive endeavors that have little use and/or have little effectiveness. For example, the United States government spends trillions of dollars every year.

Unfortunately, taxpayers have to foot the bill. Most private citizens who follow politics probably find themselves wanting to bang their heads against the wall at how stupidly and wastefully their government spends money.

It may not seem to make sense, but it actually does. Governments do not take on expensive projects despite how much the projects cost; governments take on the projects because the projects cost so much.

We can understand this more fully if we take note of the nature of spending money and the nature of humans.

Regarding the spending of money, while one person spends money another person receives money. The private citizens and taxpayers look at government spending as spending, but the people in power who the make decisions look at it as revenue. For example, if a government project costs taxpayers $5 billion, then that means the government and its business associates have received $5 billion.

Since bureaucrats, politicians, and their cronies all earn money by spending the taxpayers' money, human nature tells us that they will try to "spend" as much as possible. Expecting otherwise would be analogous to giving a person a credit card and telling that person that someone else would have to pay the bill, and then expecting the person not to charge up a huge bill. Obviously, the person would charge up a huge bill because someone else will have to pay it. And governments will similarly rack up as huge of a bill as they can because other people have to pay for it.

To make the most money for themselves and their cronies, politicians and bureaucrats take on expensive projects even when the projects have little use. For the same reason, politicians and bureaucrats try to get the government involved in futile but expensive endeavors, such as the war on drugs. By getting into these futile but expensive endeavors, they have a constant excuse to spend lots of money.

As another example, most people see the Iraq War and the current occupation of Iraq as a huge blunder. They think this even despite all the government's propaganda supporting the war and despite all the misinformation supporting the war. It makes sense that most of the taxpaying people see the war as a mistake because it will cost them trillions of dollars. But it also makes sense that the government and the involved special interest groups support the war because they will get trillions of dollars in revenue from it.

Governments want to spend money without actually fixing problems. Governments want the problems to continue so that the governments have an excuse to continue spending money.

As long as a government can spend other people's money, it will spend it as seemingly wastefully as it can. I see the only solution as stopping the government from spending money. Government spending corrupts society, and I think we can only reduce that corruption by reducing government spending. The governments obviously will not reduce it themselves, so the people have to do that. The taxpayers have to stop letting their governments spend their money.

About the author: Scott Hughes administrates the Philosophy Forums, which include a Philosophy of Politics Forum.

What do you think? Please post comments on the article. Thanks!
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warren

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not universal

Post Number:#2  PostNovember 8th, 2008, 11:38 pm

Okay, let us assume, as you suggest, that politicians are not particularly ethical, and will spend other people's money unscrupulousely. I tend to agree. Let us also assume that when they propose new spending, it is to give their friends jobs. Another safe assumption. However, this is too universal. Most people, and some politicians are careful with other people's money. In the case of democracies, and relatives, overspending runs you the risk of being kicked out of the house. Politicians will propose wastful spending and selective tax shelter for everybody, including voters, who helped that person get into office. Let's also consider the big picture of what a government is feeding money to. Much of it is for one, not this type of money grab scheme, instead, essential services, bookkeeping (ironically), parks and rec, misc. Not all of it can be condusive to cheating. Further, let us consider that some of the waste could in fact be actual waste. Forgotten offices, bad deals on computer hardware, physically misplaced money, inefficient processes.
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Post Number:#3  PostAugust 12th, 2009, 4:29 pm

Why are there no checks and balances on government spending? How can we, the people, decide how our money is spent? We need more moral politicians who really care. Voting is a right we may have, but we gives the power to the politician when they are in office. Nothing can be done to improve the situation.
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Post Number:#4  PostAugust 14th, 2009, 4:37 pm

Scott,

How do you balance your philosophy on less government spending with your support of public health care?
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Post Number:#5  PostAugust 14th, 2009, 4:54 pm

socratesLaw wrote:Why are there no checks and balances on government spending?

Yeah, why don't we get to watch what politicians do and then decide whether or not they should stay in office?

Oh wait.
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Post Number:#6  PostAugust 14th, 2009, 7:59 pm

Part of the truth here is to properly define the role of government and that from my view does not mean the government should spend our money.

Since the founding of this country, (the US), we have witnessed the demonitization of real currency into the abstract product of money as it is known today. As a result currency has no real substantive value and exists as a product of an idea which allows the government to treat money as meaningless.

Subsequently while the people value currency in so far as its material trade off the government determines its value as a measure of control, TAXES.

It is taxes and its bureaucratic system from which the government sets its base of power.

So as to its use I agree with Scott in that spending is means by which the government diverts its primary objective to control by way of taxation.

In this way does the government not concern itself with graft, corruption or or over spending. If need be the government can simply print more valueless currency or borrow on future expenditures.

The trick here is to hold lawmakers accountable and insure that the federal government has as limited a role as possible. A return to state autonomy would curtail excesses and return this nation back into what the founders originally and rightly envisioned.
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Post Number:#7  PostAugust 15th, 2009, 5:50 pm

warren, you make some interesting points. Thanks for your reply. I especially like when you say, "In the case of democracies, and relatives, overspending runs you the risk of being kicked out of the house." Indeed, insofar as those whose money is spent have control over how their money is spent by controlling the ones who spend it (through voting in a democracy), then the inherent wastefulness and corruption of government spending can be avoided. If essentially we are spending it, then it isn't government spending; it's just us spending our own money. But of course voting only gives one limited influence over how their money is spent.

Thanks for your comments, socratesLaw. You ask how can we, the people, decide how our money is spent. I think we need to become more socially and politically active, and work towards moving towards self-government (which to me is synonymous with no government or anarchism). We can do this by taking more control and influence over the government by using protest, civil disobedience, and legal methods of reform (e.g. voting). We can also work to eliminate the need for government (e.g. reduce poverty, violent crime, etc.), thus enabling ourselves to reduce the size of government, government spending and taxation.

Alun and Juice, I agree with what I believe is your point: We can reduce the inherent wastefulness of government by taking more control over government and thus moving more towards self-government (i.e. deciding ourselves how our own money is spent) which we can do by such methods as voting or other activism. Thanks for your replies!

whitetrshsoldier wrote:How do you balance your philosophy on less government spending with your support of public health care?

First of all, thanks for your reply. Good question! I wouldn't necessarily say that I support public health care, depending on what you mean by public health care. The reasons I would have for opposing government-run or government-funded health care would be the reasons listed in the OP.

With that said, I would rather some of us having some of our money be wasted and everyone having access to food, clothes, shelter, health care and education than us not having our money wastefully spent but people suffering in poverty.

Also, I would support investments of government spending and legislation to fix problems that will cost more in the long-run if we spend less now. To reuse an analogy I have used on my poverty blog, I'd rather invest $100 today to fix a sinking boat then spend $10 a day to scoop water out of the sinking boat day after day.

Regarding the specific issue of health care, it's a very complicated issue. Let me just say that the government already spends a lot supposedly on health care, but for the reasons explained in the OP it is unsurprisingly spent very wastefully and corruptly. And yet millions of people do not have health care coverage. There are many possible policy reforms that would be far from ideal that would still be much more preferable and less wasteful than the status quo. I'll create a new thread solely about health care policy soon.

Thanks!
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Post Number:#8  PostAugust 16th, 2009, 9:03 pm

Scott wrote:With that said, I would rather some of us having some of our money be wasted and everyone having access to food, clothes, shelter, health care and education than us not having our money wastefully spent but people suffering in poverty.


So you would rather 'some of us' having our money 'wasted' so that everybody could have access to:

1. Food
2. Clothes
3. Shelter
4. Health Care
5. Education

Which 'some of us' are going to pay for this? Sounds like quite a bill for just 'a few of us' to foot. In fact, Scott, though I might not be earning what I have in the past, I can tell you where the money is coming from. I was never a member of the "wealthy upper class", but I was feeling like I was. I was paying near 50% of my income to fund these dreams, and I can tell you that I didn't feel like it was warranted.

The real question is, why can't people pay their own way? Sure, some people suffer in 'poverty' despite their best efforts. But I can tell you that most people have the means to escape this 'terrible' life. And yet, they don't. When, or if, you are able to support your family in a sufficient fashion as a result of your hard work [which I voluntarily support, BTW], do you feel like you should be the one paying for others' services, even though many of those people are very capable of earning for themselves?

Should you and your family live with less because others are unwilling to earn their own way?

Scott wrote:Also, I would support investments of government spending and legislation to fix problems that will cost more in the long-run if we spend less now. To reuse an analogy I have used on my poverty blog, I'd rather invest $100 today to fix a sinking boat then spend $10 a day to scoop water out of the sinking boat day after day.


How about we just don't expect government to fix our problems in the first place? Is it really my responsibility to run your life? Or is that something that you can earn for yourself, through gaining my respect and support? Haven't you done so already? Are you really going to tell me that you back a philosophy that says we should FORCIBLY TAKE FROM ONE GROUP TO GIVE TO ANOTHER?

I've said so before, Scott, and I'll say so again. I do no support this Robin Hood fairytale, nor will I ever. I should not be punished for my success. Neither should anybody else.

Scott wrote:Regarding the specific issue of health care, it's a very complicated issue. Let me just say that the government already spends a lot supposedly on health care, but for the reasons explained in the OP it is unsurprisingly spent very wastefully and corruptly. And yet millions of people do not have health care coverage. There are many possible policy reforms that would be far from ideal that would still be much more preferable and less wasteful than the status quo. I'll create a new thread solely about health care policy soon.


And I'm saying that the government shouldn't spend any money on health care. Call it 'selfish' or 'uncompassionate', but it's true.

I hate using personal anecdotes, but here it goes: I suffered seizures in Afghanistan after a rocket attack. I used the VA for my immediate care, and found how unreliable 'government' health programs can be. I have been charged for emergency services related to my disorder, along with other problems considered 'combat related'. I have waited for 6,8, and even 10 hours in the VA's emergency room for care. I'm not saying I deserved better; just that I would rather find a way, of my own efforts, to pay for something better.

And I have! So, I will argue, can everybody else. Short of mental or physical deficiency, which people can find assistance for through church, family, community, or at the worst, local or state government, NOBODY IS INCAPABLE OF EARNING SUCCESS.

I fail to understand your desire to believe that the government should accept personal failure, encourage apathy, and reward mediocraty. And mostly, I fail to understand your support of these theiving policies.
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Post Number:#9  PostAugust 16th, 2009, 11:30 pm

Taxes are not punishment. Granted, some rhetoric is pretty anti-wealth, but that's not what taxes are for. The government isn't playing Robin Hood, it's trying to maintain the system that allowed the rich to become rich. And if there's anything that can keep someone from being a productive citizen, it's sickness.

And don't think government programs helping lower classes don't also help the rest of us. It's called a consumer economy for a reason: it needs consumers. It also needs a constant supply of new blood--new healthy, safe, and educated blood.
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Post Number:#10  PostAugust 17th, 2009, 3:40 pm

Alun wrote:Taxes are not punishment. Granted, some rhetoric is pretty anti-wealth, but that's not what taxes are for. The government isn't playing Robin Hood, it's trying to maintain the system that allowed the rich to become rich. And if there's anything that can keep someone from being a productive citizen, it's sickness.

And don't think government programs helping lower classes don't also help the rest of us. It's called a consumer economy for a reason: it needs consumers. It also needs a constant supply of new blood--new healthy, safe, and educated blood.


I hate to sound callous, Alun, but consumers will continue to breed and buy. In fact, if the government didn't rob from the rich to provide for their health care, THEY'D BE FORCED TO BUY THEIR OWN! Wouldn't that help keep the rich richer?

A "constant supply of new blood" is easy to 'keep flowing' - look at China.
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Post Number:#11  PostAugust 17th, 2009, 4:32 pm

China is not a good example of anything in the US; they have much lower standards for working conditions and wages, not to mention a huge amount of natural resources to work with.

And it's better for the economy if people can get real jobs to be really productive. The economy has a lot of problems when people don't actually have the money to buy when they buy. Having the government make sure things are honest and that people have enough opportunities to keep from being exploited is part of what allows people to be successful in the first place. Obviously, having taxes too high is a problem too, but you still don't get to call taxes theft.
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Post Number:#12  PostAugust 17th, 2009, 4:36 pm

Alun wrote:China is not a good example of anything in the US; they have much lower standards for working conditions and wages, not to mention a huge amount of natural resources to work with.

And it's better for the economy if people can get real jobs to be really productive. The economy has a lot of problems when people don't actually have the money to buy when they buy. Having the government make sure things are honest and that people have enough opportunities to keep from being exploited is part of what allows people to be successful in the first place. Obviously, having taxes too high is a problem too, but you still don't get to call taxes theft.


I get to call taxes theft when they're being used to fund private companies like GM and Chrystler. There is, and was, absolutely no authority for the government to 'buy' those companies. Prove otherwise if you disagree.

As far as the rest goes, GOVERNMENT DOESN'T HAVE TO PROTECT WORKERS. I've explained this a million times before. If people don't like their goddamn working conditions, they don't have to accept the terms of employment. Employment is an agreement between two parties; an employer and an employee. Does your Mom/Dad have to talk to your Employer every time you sign a job contract, or do you even work for a living? Maybe when your boss asks you to work overtime you expect an agent from the government to bust down their doors and arrest the head of HR for you?

Or maybe you can just be a big boy and work it out with them by yourself? That sounds a little cheaper and more responsible to me; and it might even help companies realize that their employees DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE PEOPLE AND NOT LIKE CHILDREN!
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Post Number:#13  PostAugust 17th, 2009, 7:21 pm

whitetrshsoldier wrote:I get to call taxes theft when they're being used to fund private companies like GM and Chrystler. There is, and was, absolutely no authority for the government to 'buy' those companies. Prove otherwise if you disagree.

GM has a quarter million employees? Yes, letting it tank would be more economically natural, but it would also hurt millions of people.

whitetrshsoldier wrote:Does your Mom/Dad have to talk to your Employer every time you sign a job contract, or do you even work for a living?

Do you even look at history before you make big proclamations like "GOVERNMENT DOESN'T HAVE TO PROTECT WORKERS"?
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Post Number:#14  PostAugust 17th, 2009, 7:56 pm

Alun wrote:GM has a quarter million employees? Yes, letting it tank would be more economically natural, but it would also hurt millions of people.


Instead we should hurt 300,000,000 people for the sake of those 250,000? Good call! How about those 250,000 could have moved to productive companies that produced quality products that people actually wanted to buy instead of us further tanking our economy?

Alun wrote:Do you even look at history before you make big proclamations like "GOVERNMENT DOESN'T HAVE TO PROTECT WORKERS"?


Do you believe in any sense of personal accountability or do you honestly think that we should just rely on others to take care of us?

Any people who submit to substandard conditions deserve to live with them, AS THEY HAVE CONSENTED OF THEIR OWN VOLITION. They can quit and find a new job or quit their bitching and deal with it.
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Post Number:#15  PostSeptember 21st, 2009, 8:24 pm

... couple of points on spending.

As a percentage of GNP, the federal government spent much more during World War II. The debt taken on by the children of that generation -- the 60s generation -- was the largest ever seen in the country's history. Yet, look what happened. We built the strongest economy on the planet.

Remember also that England became a world power because it invented the institutions of finanace capitalism which allowed the government to borrow from its future.

It all depends upon what you spend the money on. If you spend large sums of borrowed capital for things that increase the wealth of the economy and create growth -- the value added will more than pay for the debt. It's the same idea with student loans. Think about how much private debt you have. I bet you that you have more debt as a poor college student than the government has as a percentage of overall wealth. The extra money you will make from the college degree pays for the debt and increases your standard of living at the same time. In economics its called a pareto trade.

So if they spend it wisely, it's an investment, not "spending."
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