As every element of modern life moves towards more customization and individual empowerment, government stands alone as the only major entity moving in the opposite direction. And liberals, (i.e., Democrats and some Republicans), are its only salesmen.
Innovation and new technologies have led to increasingly rapid advances in products and services that are centered around consumers and their personal preferences. These changes in turn have upended existing industries and business models and created new ones, the result being that many of today’s biggest and most innovative companies or services, (such as Facebook, Google, i-Tunes, YouTube, etc.), didn’t even exist (or just barely) when the War on Terror began in 2001.
Computers continue to get better, smaller, faster and cheaper, with multitudes of customizable options. Phones have evolved into a combination of phone, stereo, camera, camcorder, TV and hand-held computer – all at a fraction of what only one of those individual devices used to cost, much less all of them.
The winner in this sea change is of course the consumer, who gains access to more choice and better quality at a lower cost.
But then there’s government, which continues to become more expensive, bloated and uniform, rather than innovative, primarily because it has what it doesn’t allow businesses to have: a monopoly.
Granted, there are many things that, due to finances, can’t be customized for everyone. Roads come to mind, (despite the delusions of some drivers). But the point is that choice benefits consumers and weakens any monopoly. If your services are no longer the only game in town, and if people don’t need what you’re selling, then they don’t need you – which is why government tends to outlaw its competition.
Government by nature isn’t very good at innovation, much less so when you factor in millions of unionized employees. But since this is true, why make things worse by constantly broadening the scope of government’s power over our lives? As we’ve seen over and over, the reason things are as they are is not due to the preferences of the customers (or citizens in this case), but rather because of the power held by those who decide, (read: politicians and government employees).
What’s interesting is that the party of big government has recently taken pride in being the party of the i-Phone generation, with Obama capturing 2/3’s of the support of voters under age 30 in his 2008 presidential campaign. But how many of those voters would buy an i-Phone that only had one app on it? Or visit an app store with only one app for any given product or service? Such a “store” wouldn’t last very long, which is why Apple has hundreds of thousands of applications for sale in its store.
One has to wonder how much longer it will be before elements of the Democrat base see the obvious contradictions between their relationship to government and everything else in their lives. How long before the i-Phone generation starts to wonder why they can’t get their education, health care or retirement plan the way they want vs. being restricted to unsuccessful, one-size-fits-all models? And given the normal libertarian views of youth, how long before the next generation of protest music begins?
As James Madison said, “the chief end of government is justice”. But is it “just” for one faction of our society to try to use the national government to force uniform solutions onto the whole of society, or is it better to allow individuals to have more control over their own lives?
These are the type of questions conservatives should welcome – and that Republican candidates should make every effort to highlight. The more we package our principles in the language of liberty and empowerment, the better off we will be.
Just as with big corporations that ignore consumers, the bigger and more remote our government becomes, the less of an impact the average citizen can have on it, and the less use they will have for it. Eventually they will be ready for something that gives them greater control over their own lives, along with better, faster, cheaper service.
When that happens, another market will be upended.