James Turner


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Smaller Government in all countries around the world

Is there a way we can rationally and gradually shrink all governments in countries all over the world and reduce them to providing protection on national level and let the local take care of their own problems and seek help from other local governments?

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    Feb 21 2013: Sooooooooo it seems we wring our hands and throw in the towel and blindly accept the fact that big govt is corrupt. Is that the mind set of the most creative thinkers on earth? Are we so dependent on govt money as TED thinkers and scientists that we are afraid to think out side the box and use the collective greatness of intellect to find an answer? I think not!,, TEDsters are the most creative minds around let us turn them to this issue and boldly go where no place has gone before. Smaller more limited centralized govt and great minds working in synergy to find a solution not just reiterate the problems. Come on TEDsters lead the way with me and let's find real answers!,,,,,
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      Feb 21 2013: Absolutely.
      The one "problem" that I see that must be overcome is the reluctance of people to give up the comfort they find in big government. Reluctance is probably not a strong enough word.
      I have engaged in talks with these comfortable people and even when I point to real situations where governments have failed to sustain the comforts provided to their populations... I am assured that

      " it could never happen here. Our government is too good to allow that to happen".

      In my defeat, my only solace is that when the big governments fail and based on history they always do, I believe, hopefully, people will learn by their mistakes in rebuilding their societies.
  • Feb 20 2013: Very simple answer: sure, you could elect such a government in virtually every modern country in the next election cycle.

    The issue is not that it could be done, it is that in most countries the culture of greed and entitlement allows the many to rob the few at the ballot box. Western Europe is already in the great slide to socialist destruction. America is also likely over the tipping point and will be joining them soon. Russia is rife with unstoppable corruption and Japan with a hopeless and helpless bureaucracy that is endemic to their collectivist culture. India has corruption like Russia and a clanking bureaucracy that has all the worst aspects of British civil service. China is expanding largely based on the greed of the Western world. It will remain to be seen if they can create a middle class that will allow them to self sustain. Africa is a non-issue. The is no culture there that is capable of anything but perpetual corruption and war.

    In short, no. The size of government is driven by collective greed. And the one thing that is ever present in the human heart is greed.
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    Feb 19 2013: Smaller the govt the less it can interfere in human rights and individual freedoms. The more local the govt the easier it can be corrected Nd over reach stopped with less loss of life. In theory anyway. So to the call of the question how do we reduce govt to minimal size world wide and let individual freedom grow as well as individual responsibility for life. How do we do it?
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      Feb 19 2013: We Can't.
      There are people who are ... afraid of freedom and individual rights. They feel secure in having a "big" government taking care of them from cradle to grave.
      So, to approach them and say, we could tailor your governance so that it will allow your individual freedoms with the minimal of restrictions... etc. I am afraid we would be told to go away. We even have a portion of the citizenry of the USA who hold that philosophy.
      Would it be better to have smaller governance? Yes, But how do you hold the nose of a childish population to make it take the bitter medicine as they see it. And then take away their security blankets? You will have a world wide squealing of babes.
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        Feb 20 2013: replace it with more efficient ones and phase them out gradually. E.G. increase compensation for voucher programs, which would lead to better education at a lower cost. Stop wars. Replace ridiculous number of welfare systems with a simple solution e.g. negative income tax. You see where i'm going
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          Feb 20 2013: I am confused. How would " bettering voucher programs, replacing welfare systems, Starting wars? that may have merit" ; reduce the size of government? All of these require government agencies. The best idea is to remove as many agencies as possible.
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        Feb 20 2013: they'd reduce government in terms of spending. Which due to economic realities of the day, has to be done. Also I said STOP wars not start wars...please read more carefully before responding. The fact of the matter is, people depend on these programs. If you were to eliminate a bunch of agencies overnight you'd create a havoc in the short run. Stopping wars would have an obvious benefit of reducing spending, so will replacing current educational system with a voucher based system. The spending will go down. Education quality will most likely improve, which is has a strong effect economy in developed nations. Let's take import taxes for example. If you were to nullify them overnight unemployment will rise dramatically. But if you were to phase it out gradually, e.g. by a set amount over let's say 5 year period, in the first year, unemployment would be affected far less, and industries at home would have time to adopt to new market realities and know what to expect as import taxes gradually cease to exist. The same can be done about pretty much every government program. I do not believe in government provision of goods, however I also do not believe in complete absence of government as well. Providing infrastructure is a necessary investment which ensures fast growth in developing nations. In developed nations, efficient infrastructure is a given, and it's the ease of doing business, low taxes i.e. business friendly environment and well educated workforce is what gives countries edge.

        As far as reducing government in terms of regulations, even though propose above solutions will probably greatly reduce the bureaucracy they are in no way enough. People will have to ask politicians to do it. Generally, at least in U.S. , people get what they ask for. It's just sometimes they're led to ask for things they don't really want.
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          Feb 20 2013: Hi
          No, I read your "stop wars" . I see stop wars as the wrong phraseology. We don't really want to start wars. You only stop once it has started...anyway that was my take.
          But you have addressed my point exactly. People have been accepting all these goods and services by the central government and keep accepting and even asking for more. The problem as I see it is that governments have no method to gain wealth except to take it from people, which makes some people unhappy. But the biggest loss in this process is not the money but freedoms and independence. These are traded for safety and security. If you want that from your government, I have no problem with your choice, I believe you have that freedom. I just rather have my freedom and independence.
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    Feb 19 2013: Why do you see the size of governments as THE problem? Seriously. Above all else facing humanity.

    Long before dealing with size, if that is even a root problem, I would be concerned human rights around the world, with lack of transparency and with corruption among those in power, whether in government or those outside of government who pull strings behind the scenes.

    Yes, we need to exercise fiscal restraint, not infringe on individual freedoms, etc., but we also need well informed people in power, representing us, who will work together to solve national problems, and work with the rest of the world to solve emerging and existing global problems, again in a transparent way without being under the thrall of special interests. Will that happen? probably not..
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      Feb 19 2013: People in power...
      Power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts. Someone said that.

      Government should be sized to meet a specific list of tasks to provide for the individual freedoms,
      ie. life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness. like the original US Constitution.
      If it is allowed to take on additional tasks to make the individual feel safer or make life easier...
      It's all downhill from there like the current US Constitution.
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    Feb 18 2013: Great point and I agree now back to my original question how do we do this world wide?
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    Feb 18 2013: I think we are all missing it. Government is not an entity of it's own, it's supposed to be what the people make of it.

    Under the US Constitution, specific tasks were assigned and limitations imposed. But over the years, the people allowed it to get bigger, to do more than was originally intended. As a result, the Federation of the United States as it was intended has become one nation with only the slimmest tentacle of the federation still in existence. So, since the successful overthrown of the British Crown rule to a Confederation, to a Federation, to a Constitutional Republic, heading to be a Socialist Republic?

    So, here is my point. A society needs some rules to live harmoniously. Some entity should be established to address those rules. The society should limit that entity to address those specific rules. If the member of the governing entity suggest that with more power, it could do more for the society, That society should be very careful, for if the governing entity does everything for the society that's called a dictatorship.
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    Feb 18 2013: Sorry iPad typing is tricky at times goats should be govts
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    Feb 18 2013: There cant be a one-size-fits-all form of goverment for the whole world.
    Smaller governments works well in some societies; it is doomed to fail in some others.
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      Feb 18 2013: Interesting thought. Would you share an example where a giant government is.the best choice and it has not removed individual choice and freedoms? Also, why do you think we need a govt that does more than defend the nations territory from invaders? Surely the fall of large goats over and over show they are failures as well as the revolutions and rebellions from within? Sgain the question I ask is how can we get small goats for all nations?
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      Feb 20 2013: agreed, that's why, Swiss system is the best imo, by providing maximum self-governance on a smaller scale where communities can choose hw much government they want.
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    Feb 18 2013: The premise of the question disturbs me. It assumes that there is some optimal size a government should be to mediate the competition for power that is natural in all of us. Government is the agreement we make to control our natural urges for the sake of civilized social intercourse. In the United States, where I am from, it was the savagery of the slave powers that constantly clamored for small government. When government gets in the way of our barbaric or savage tendencies, we instantly want it to shrink; but when nature savages us as it did with Hurricane Katrina or wildfire infernos in Texas or the Tsunami that devastated Japan, we tend to grade government by a different metric. They have a very small government in Somalia and Afghanistan and how is that working for them? Small government advocates rarely ask how the power void would be filled as government shrinks. But those of us who are not members of the power elite know the answer to that question. Someone said that the US constitution was designed purposely to limit the scope of the Federal Government. But that is odd, since the Constitution was "ordained and established" to replace the Articles of Confederation where the states maintained their complete sovereignty. This limited government mantra is a farce. Government should be big enough to ensure each citizen has EQUAL protection under the law. When government can guarantee that, then we can entertain a question about its size. Until then, it is only a beast or a monster to those warlords who want to carve out their own little multi-billion dollar fiefdoms and rule in perpetuity over a serfdom with no control over their destiny. Here is an exercise, see if you can go anywhere and see anything that was not made better by government regulation. ANYTHING? be careful, if you see only one footprint in the sand, perhaps that is when Big government is carrying you.
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      Feb 18 2013: So how do we fill the power void for the good of the people as govt shrinks? Does any nation need 40 to 50 percent of it's people dependent on govt largesse to survive?
      • Feb 18 2013: Hi James.
        In today's world and the one (whatever that is), that is emerging, more and more of the populace of virtually any country will be dependent upon the (good) will of the people for survival.
        There are enough jobs of every variety today, to put almost everyone who can, to work doing something that the world and its inhabitants need and desire.
        A problem with that is that many of these jobs no one wants to do and one reason for that is they will not pay enough to live and survive on.
        I think government should be small everywhere, without the powers they have usurped from the people and the people have let them take or have.
        One benefit may be people will work together, country to country and begin solving their problems, or rather our problems. We all share them, as we are part of the reason for them.
        But it goes deeper or is more widespread than that.

        The corruption that all governments thrive on must be eliminated everywhere and one great way to do that is to end the global monetary system. Then, we will solve our problems.
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    Feb 18 2013: I do not know that is why I asked others to think about this with me
  • Feb 18 2013: and what kind of governing body would oversee cross-border relations and resolve disputes? actually government is not wide enough at the current time, because though we all live in the same planet we are only culpable for actions that affect people inside our borders. for example japan for years now has been suffering building air pollution flowing on from china, who has absolutely no cause to do anything about it because it doesn't affect the people they govern. similar disputes have been settled in europe with regards to river management thanks to a level of government that's wider than a single country.

    sure many governments and many areas of other governments have become corrupted by individuals or corporations that seek to further their own interest at the cost of others, such as profiting from sales of supplies to the government that don't benefit the general public, but that's evidence that those individuals and companies are bad, not evidence that government is bad.
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      Feb 18 2013: I do not have an answer that is why my question was written. Maybe each local area or state could work it out cooperatively . The US southern border is an example of a failure by big govt to get the job done,
      • Feb 19 2013: yep it was supposed to be rhetorical sorry i wasn't clear.
        i get your point about the southern border, though that to me indicates that current policies aren't working rather than government as a whole - this government's failures don't mean that every government will be unable. personally i suggest they quit spending all the money on stop and search of american citizens and use it instead on building a properly impassable border.
        really though in the states government isn't all that big compared to many other countries. what is big though is the government spending, basically money that's handed out to corporations to provide services at inflated cost. for example defense spending, it's not really defense spending but defense company welfare. for example mcdonall douglas makes most of its profit from sales to the US government.
        you've also got a problem with the minimum wage. people who aren't too bright argue that raising the minimum wage will be expensive for businesses, conveniently ignoring the fact that it will put more money in their customers' pockets which will raise their sales and profits. this would then make working more desirable which would take more people off welfare. in australia the minimum wage is now $15 an hour and our economy is booming. it makes sense if you think about it - the rich don't create jobs, customers do.
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    Feb 18 2013: Nice analysis so how do we shrink the monster?
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    Feb 18 2013: For the most part, democratic governments tend to expand slowly to envelop the citizens, subsequently they become corrupt and eventually mimic a tyrannical despot. It takes hundreds of years, so maybe not a current problem.
    I can't speak of other countries, so I'll speak of my own. When our Constitution was written in such a way to contain the size of the Federal Government. Specific limitations were noted and tasks were enumerated. But, in the best intentions, there were holes left for "big government" to crawl through. "Provide for the general welfare" is the phrase that will be the end of America as we know it. Instead of an Army limited to two years, we have one of the largest standing armies for an indefinite period. The general welfare. We have millions of citizens who have been stripped of their dignity and made to feel victimized so they can be provided for their general welfare. Even a simple act of boarding an airplane is now proceeded by an physical attack that is tantamount to a sexual assault in other days for the safety of air travel. All because four groups of fanatics commandeered four airliners and used them as guided missiles.
    Now the worse part of this is that, we the people have convinced by the big government politicians to amend our constitution for all the best reasons, but these changes have in some cases expanded the size of the 'Federal Government and weaken the constraints of government growth.
    It may be said that if the people were better educated, they can see the growth of the federal government.
    But, the federal government has gotten involved in the educational system. The emphasis is on the reasons of citizen victimization,the causes, effects and the perpetrators. The study of civics and history is
    /has almost been eliminated.
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    Feb 17 2013: In the U.S. the illusion is that the government is in charge, this is the tail wagging the dog.

    As stated education is the answer, I did a Venn diagram on this a while back, education is the only answer. Specifically an education in economics, even a superficial one. Secondly an education about budgets, this subject is full of fallacies.

    We really don't care as much about the ideology as we do the cost. Politicians go on and on about ideology and then once elected do things that aren't even close to their campaign promises. We collectively need to put our boot on throats of the politician regarding spending.

    Edumacation that is the key.
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    Feb 17 2013: Do we not have high levels of education in most
    major countries already? The USA probably has the most
    college graduates per acre on the world and the govt is huge
    and trips over it's own feet most of the time (ie Bengahzi debacle etc)
    I agree education is a start but what are the next steps?
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      Feb 17 2013: i did not mean general level of education (which is also lacking, i must add), but rather educating about how and why freedom works, and why central control does not work.
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        Feb 17 2013: Ahh thanks for the clarification. So we are doing that now via social media, news media, TED, and other means Lets hope it starts to take action soon. We do not need a one world order with the foolishness like the UN
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        Feb 18 2013: Krisztian

        You have been posting on TED for a while, have you seen any change in the disposition on this subject?
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          Feb 18 2013: not sure. it is possible that i slightly changed the thinking of one person. we also don't know how many readers decided to follow up on the theories i'm advocating. there are always people on the margin.
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        Feb 19 2013: You have pointed out some things to me that changed my perspective. With the Austrian School and bubbles, Matt Ridley and the real driver of the economy, Dennet and the spread of meme, freedom and liberty. Yup I went to school on you.

        My sense as mentioned by Ron Paul in the video is that there are more people becoming aware of the importance of economic freedom. Although I have to admit I was very depressed by the last election here but then I considered he was an incumbent who won by a much more narrow margin than he should of it gave me some hope that maybe some are waking up.
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        Feb 19 2013: I disagree you effected change.

        I think the most effective tool is a book. You have mentioned a children's book in the past for economics and I have heard Tom Woods mention the same. Most adults have a grade school understanding of this subject so it would be useful to them as well if presented correctly.

        But if enough people repeat the meme it will grow and IMO is growing.
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    Feb 17 2013: How many new laws protect a nation from another
    nation. Do we need all these departments such as USPS
    FDA etc to protect national borders? Could all nations develop
    systems that protect national borders and let local
    business and local govts take care of the rest and
    work cooperatively for things like resources, trade,etc.
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    Feb 17 2013: That is a possibility but I am asking how do we shrink
    big govt world wide not should we go to a monarchy or other form of government
    I apologize if the question was unclear. There is no underlying assumption that a
    single person can defend a nation.
  • Feb 17 2013: As humans it took many years to grow modern governments. I wonder how good it was under the "Big Man" or the Alpha Monkey. Maybe an anachronism might not be as good as you believe.
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    Feb 16 2013: sure. the way is education. as soon as people understand why it is good, it will happen.