news commentary
  June 18, 2010


Is Government A "Cancer?"
by Dave Johnson

This from CNBC and highlighted at Drudge (near today's screaming headline "BOX OF HEADS FOUND ON PLANE" - no siren): Government Expanded “Like a Cancer”: Marc Faber,

Governments have intervened too much in free markets since the crisis started, to the point that they are affecting the health of the world economy, Marc Faber, the author of "The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report" told CNBC Thursday.

 . . . "I think that governments have become like a cancer, they have expanded in the financial system," Faber said.

 "I think the biggest problem is too much intervention. Whatever the government touches is usually done worse than in the private sector," he said.

OK, this is the basic statement of the right-wing view of government. (At least when they are not complaining that government isn't doing enough, like in the Gulf, or arresting enough poor people.)  But what does it really mean?

Under our Constitution government is We, the People making the decisions for ourselves. So under that definition doesn't "big government" just mean more democracy — more We, the People making more of the decisions? And just what is the alternative?  The only alternative today to "big government" is big corporations and the very wealthy making the decisions, telling us what to do and dividing up our resources instead of us having control over decisions and our resources. It really is an either or — the people or a "plutocracy" (government by the very wealthy and big corporations).

And maybe plutocracy is the reason we are saturated with a well-funded anti-government propaganda campaign drumbeat. When they say corporations are "more efficient" than government, don't they mean that someone at the top telling us what to do is "efficient" compared to the cumbersome decision processes of democracy, and the oversight and accountability needed for transparency in managing public resources? That is why we have bureaucracy, so that people can see how their resources are used.

The founders of our country understood clearly that we faced a battle between the people and the wealthy and powerful. Democracy and government by the people were literally revolutionary concepts and were under constant attack from the wealthy and powerful interests from whom we had seized self-governance. Now that there is widespread acceptance of the idea, they have to be more subtle with the attacks.

So when we hear people talking about government as a "cancer" we should be very wary of the intent behind the propaganda. They are not talking about us having more control over the country's decision-making and resources.  They are talking about something else.

Dave Johnson is a Senior Fellow with the Institute for the Renewal of the California Dream, a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, and a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute.  His "home" blog is Seeing the Forest, This commentary also appeared on