I'm going into town after Set I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra look out Set here i come Set to get Set to sunset Set to unseat Set to Set down Set usurper of the Royal couch imposter RAdio of Moses' bush party pooper O hater of dance vampire outlaw of the milky way
~ from Ishmael Reed’s poem, I Am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra
But since government is also necessary, the task is to determine what institutions need to be done away with, how to sunset them so they do not strangle the whole, rather than to rail at all of them. My thoughts on this inevitably stray to special interest groups as well. At what point do, say, HRC and AIPAC and the NAACP end up simply perpetuating themselves and their own leaders (invariably factions of the large, amorphous groups they claim to represent) rather than remaining focused on the task in front of them?
Since I have to concede that anarchy is at best a pipe-dream and at worst something more akin to Lord of the Flies, I have to also concede that government is necessary. Indeed, I in no way intend to rail against government blindly. I think government fulfills a vital balancing role in society, whether through enforcing laws or providing essential safety nets.
What leapt out at me in Andrew’s response, however, was the notion of sun-setting institutions. I like the idea of writing sunset provisions into as many laws and spending proposals as possible. Milton Friedman famously wrote that nothing is quite so permanent as a temporary government program. Sunset provisions help us avoid this to some extent (though obviously, in politics the sun also rises…)
In any case, I like the idea of sunset provisions for government institutions themselves. I’m not sure if this has ever been tried. But wouldn’t it have been wonderful to write in not only a sunset provision for the Patriot Act, but for the entire Department of Homeland Security?
Too often our government is a self-serving, bloated mega-institution incapable of ever cutting off any of its outgrown limbs. Making more if it temporary – or at least writing in the possibility of temporariness when constructing it – would at the very least give these big government institutions a reason to try to remain relevant.
Of course, the downside would be an even more concerted effort to self-preserve, but at least there would be a conversation going on about whether survival was in the best interests of the nation at large.