I have always considered myself a small-government guy.

Love going to Hong Kong where they run the whole place out of one modest building.

But let’s re-frame the question:

What endeavors do we want to tackle collectively, and what do we want to work out as individuals?

Building highways, defeating the Nazis, running an aircraft carrier, having a fire department, going to the moon, etc. are all things that we can do best collectively. The more people in the pool, the more we can do.

Education is an expensive item with much complexity. In small towns (and there are a lot of them) that are too small for competition, a collective community school seems like a good idea. In large cities, my sense is that vouchers and competition would work better. But vouchers assume that the government should have the money to hand out. What if it were totally privatized? How would we ensure that underclass children get the skills to enter mainstream society?

And public education does indeed create an English-language socialization for our bazillions of immigrants. Most Mexican kids here in Cali prefer speaking English. Only the schools have done that.

If it were totally up to the libertarians, why not extremist Muslim grade schools backed by oil money in every big city? Just one of the “options.” So unraveling the public schools’ semi-monopoly can have a dark side.

And as far as big government goes, Ronny and W did more to create that than any other president in my lifetime–it’s just that much of it was military. As I’ve said before, military spending counts as government spending and it’s one of the most expensive forms of big government. Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex (right about the day I was born, by the way).

I’d like to do a major post on “rethinking education.” Another one on “rethinking military.” I think that these two big ticket items encourage outrageous spending based on obsolete world views. The educational and military situations have changed and we still build schools and weaponry based on former challenges that no longer exist.

It’s not only expensive–it doesn’t get the job done.

Too many American kids go to college and not enough of them get real job skills. Universities are not for everyone.

And why do we really need aircraft carriers and tanks? We need better ways of removing pockets of terrorist extremism and neutralizing crazy world leaders (North Korea). A pitched tank battle is way unlikely. As is a carrier war like the one we had with Japan. We also need to figure out how we are going to engage the Muslim world–much of what we now do just makes it worse. They don’t think as we do but we operate as though they do (rewards and punishment scenarios).

And then there are entitlements. It’s choking California. Many public servants here retire on more money than most in the private sector ever will make.

So how much government should we have?

Education, military, entitlements?

What are your thoughts?