Hung Up on Size

In a thoughtful Wall Street Journal editorial, Michael Barone condemns as misguided what he perceives liberal nostalgia for World War II, an era where big government accomplished historic things and Keynesian spending yanked the nation out of the Depression. He takes liberals to task for failing to realize that “Big Government, Big Business, and Big Labor” turn ordinary people into faceless cogs in a very large machine.

Barone is not wrong. Any large institution tends to eat away at individualism, and the larger governments, corporations, and unions get, the more the welfare of the individual is subsumed by the need to attend the flock. (To his list of “Bigs” I would add Big Education, Big Science, and even Big Church.)

Ironically, Barone misses a point. Faced with a global onslaught of facism, itself the total mobilization of government, industry, labor, education and science in an effort to conquer the globe, the centralization of political, industrial, and labor institutions was the only logical response. Big government, in that case, was the appropriate response.

Where Barone and other libertarian conservatives are correct is in contending that big government is not the appropriate solution to every vexing issue. Where they are wrong is in their fearful orthodoxy that implies that the only good institution is a tiny one – or a dead one – regardless of circumstance.

We need measures of institutional virtue that rise above the crypto-Freudian obsession with size, that adjudge effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, and costs in a more thoughtful way than simply watching budgets and counting noses.

American history proves that big government can be great, and it can be awful; that big labor can be a force for progress and human dignity at some times, and at others it can suck the lifeblood out of an industry or an economy; and that big business can be the engine of prosperity for the many, or a source of enrichment and empowerment for an aristocracy of merchants and financiers.

Our quest must be to seek the point of balance and to constantly evaluate how it is shifting. Using a simple measure like size is, to borrow from H.L. Mencken, simple, workable, and wrong. Such thinking makes for great sound bytes, but the tools of demagogues too rarely craft good policy.

2 thoughts on “Hung Up on Size

Add yours

  1. Size is perhaps analogous to technology. Use appropriate technology as appropriate. Small isn’t always beautiful, nor is big.

    1. There is something slightly obsessive-compulsive in the American psyche that leads us to conclude that if a little of a good thing is good, a lot is great. My son feels that way about candy, french fries, television, and his XboX. This leads me to believe that a sign of intellectual maturity is getting over a focus on quantity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

The Golden West Review

A Californian Perspective on History, Arts, Land, Literature, and Politics

A Bucket and a Pen

Capturing Life after the Career

coffeesteffi ♡

coffee, art & my brewed thoughts

Sea Scout Ship 9201

Channel Islands Harbor • Ventura County Council, BSA

Troop 234, Boy Scouts of America

Port Hueneme/Channel Islands Harbor, CA

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Musings and books from a grunty overthinker

The Chinafornia Wolf

Gratefully Chronicling a Remarkable Journey

The Thousand Books Project

Reading a Meaningful Life

Cafe Book Bean

Talk Books. Drink Coffee.

Silicon Hutong

Addressing China as it is, not as we want it to be

Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

Historian and Writer

Runningwinegirl's Blog

Colorado Girl Sharing Insights on Wine, Public Relations and Life's Adventures

ARLIN REPORT...................walking this path together

PERSPECTIVE FROM AN AGING SENIOR CITIZEN

Blue-eyed Ronin

A contrarian who enjoys challenging existing illusions, one truth at a time.

Observer

People and Trends

commentisfreewatch.wordpress.com/

Promoting fair and accurate coverage of Israel

twitchy.com

Who Said What

Barton's Blog

To the clouds and beyond...

Coffee Shop Rabbi

Basic Judaism spoken here.

Cami Ryan

Science, society, and life

Pacific Paratrooper

This WordPress.com site is Pacific War era information

______Assessing China / The TEA Collaborative______

Tech, Energy & Ambitions: Assessments at the Intersection of Technology, Investment and Policy

An Ordinary Website

of interest to few.

Der Bananenplanet

Alternatives Informationsmedium

Corey Robin

Author of "The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin" and "The Enigma of Clarence Thomas"

Ragan Communications

The Center Must Hold

The China Story

The Center Must Hold

Yale E360

The Center Must Hold

Xindanwei | 新单位

The Center Must Hold

WritersDigest.com

The Center Must Hold

WordCount

Freelancing in the Digital Age

FriendFeed Blog

The Center Must Hold

Business

The Center Must Hold

Blog Daily Listings RSS

The Center Must Hold

Speakeasy

The Center Must Hold

The Center Must Hold

Opinions

The Center Must Hold

RSSOpinion

The Center Must Hold

WebMD Health

The Center Must Hold

Renewal

The Center Must Hold

Village Voice

The Center Must Hold

Uploads from The U.S. Army

The Center Must Hold

TechNode

Latest news and trends about tech in China

WritersDigest.com

The Center Must Hold

Techmeme

The Center Must Hold

The Center Must Hold

Latest Items from TreeHugger

The Center Must Hold

%d bloggers like this: