"The endgame in the fight to increase the nation’s debt limit has only begun, but intense exchanges this week between the two parties have made it clear that this is not so much a negotiation over dollars and cents as a broader clash between the two parties over the size and role of government."
This excerpt is from the New York Times, today, July 15, 2011. I have to say that I am skeptical that the battles going on in D.C. are really about "the size and role of government." This article also refers to Ronald Reagan and his administration some 30 years ago and how Reagan is the hero of many of the insurgents in the Republican Party today. But it is worth asking: How different did government look and act after Reagan's presidency than it did before that presidency? There were changes in the tax code and, perhaps, in our collective mindset or public rhetoric, but how did the government itself change? Was it smaller? I don't think so. In fact, I think some political scientists argue, persuasively, that the government actually got larger in terms of the number of employees. I can't say that is true but what I will say is that I have not noticed any great changes in our government, especially in terms of its institutions. And, in the modern world, the bureaucratic world in which we live, change in the institutional arrangements are crucial for guaranteeing real or deep change in government. So here is my hunch: Whatever the outcome of the current budget battles, our government will not be much different both in terms of its size and its scope. It will still be humongous and it will be pervasively powerful. Check it out!