October 12, 2005

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: So I’m reading the manuscript for Joel Miller’s forthcoming book, Size Matters : How Big Government Puts the Squeeze on America’s Families, Finances, and Freedom, and it’s pretty depressing. Like my book-in-progress, it starts out with beer, which is not depressing, but Miller’s story is how absurd regulation nearly killed Pete’s Wicked Ale before it got to market. Following is a litany of bad regulation and wasteful spending (mostly the former) and how it damages both the economy and the ability of the government to do things that actually matter.

Miller’s conclusion is a bit grim — he just doesn’t think the problems are bad enough to produce the needed drastic action, yet. But my own feeling is that it’s a matter of degree. I’d like to see structural reforms that would make pork and overregulation less likely, but I agree that the electorate isn’t mad enough for that. Yet. On the other hand, even the modest pressure we’ve been able to generate over the past month has done some good, as Dennis Hastert’s reversal last week demonstrates. At the moment, it’s a game of inches, but inches matter.

UPDATE: Joel Miller emails:

I guess the book is a bit depressing. It certainly ends somberly.

You’re right about degrees, though. A person cannot sit by and do nothing. In doing something—even if it appears meager—people might actually have significant effect. Gladwell was right about this: All it takes is the right set of people and circumstances, and big things can happen. So the question is: What’s the tipping point on Big Government? The Porkbusters effort seems to be doing a lot of good. I can’t remember a time when this much on-the-ground discussion has occurred on federal spending. The results are impressive.

Well, you gotta start somewhere.

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