Government is a zero-sum game: Someone wins, and someone loses, unlike in the market, where it's win-win, where merchant and customer thank each other. "Anytime that you have the government expressing anything," Welch continued, "it's a battle of values. If a government is supporting an art show, people who find that art offensive have a legitimate claim. If a government buys ... a new baseball stadium, well, my wife hates baseball, so how is that fair to her?"
"Fifty-one percent of the people get to tell the other 49 percent what to do, how much to pay, where you have to show up," Gillespie added. In the private sector, everybody gets to pick what he or she wants.
"There are troubles and tradeoffs," Gillespie said. "But ... if somebody starts selling stuff you don't like, you don't hold a rally and you don't try and get a bunch of people to vote to change it. You go to the next grocery store ... or you build your own grocery store. It's hard to do that with schools ... with health care and ... retirement." Of course, as government makes more decisions for people and limits competition, it reduces our choices. It's also given us horrible, unsustainable debt.
But, surprisingly, the Reason folks are optimistic.
"There are cases (of big government rollbacks)," Gillespie said. "New Zealand did this. Canada did this. The U.S. did this after World War II -- dramatically ramped down the amount of spending, both in absolute terms and in relative terms as a percentage of economic activity. Political change happens."
But for now, the politicians continue to move us in the wrong direction. Last year, the feds alone added another 80,000 pages of rules. Despite talk of cuts, spending keeps growing. So does the debt.
And yet maybe the optimists are right. Maybe the human spirit is so powerful it will overcome the stupidity of politics.
I sure hope so.