What "Small Government" Looks Like in Real Life ...

There was a funny story in the New York Times on March 5th about Arizonans getting upset about the state shutting down highway rest stops. Arizona has a serious budget gap to fill, like most states.

This is what smaller government looks like on the ground. You can't fund anything that people have come to expect with no tax revenue. The Tea Party movement doesn't seem to understand this basic fact.

But my favorite part of this story is the woman who thinks there's something sinister going on.

Betty L. Roberts, who lives in Sun City, west of Phoenix, said the topic was a hot one among her friends. "I honestly think they are setting us up because they want to do a tax increase," Ms. Roberts said. "I think by shutting down things people want, they will give us one."

So that sneaky government is showing that it's out of money by, you know, not doing things that people need or want. So clever.

The Tea Party doesn't seem to get that "government" actually covers an amazing range of things that you want -- roads, police, firemen, hospitals, schools, consumer protections, environmental protection, and on and on. Oh, and libraries.

My favorite story in the last week or two was Glenn Beck at the CPAC conference talking about the evils of progressivism and how he educated himself at public libraries for free. He didn't seem to research the fact that public libraries were one of the main successes of the Progressive Movement over a hundred years ago. A great op-ed on this in my local paper here.

Nobody can say for sure what the right size of government is. Should government lead the charge on issues like health care and obesity, or is it just an issue of personal responsibility? Should government put a price on carbon to tackle pollution and climate change, or let the (somewhat) free market decide on its own? These are truly legitimate debates.

But it would help if we had a true understanding of what government actually does before we start screaming about shrinking it.