"My One-Item Christmas List: A Government That Stops Playing Santa"


I've got a new column up at Time's Ideas section. Here's the opening:

Forget a new car, Beats by Dre, or even affordable health care. You know what I really, really, really want for Christmas?

I want a government that spends less money. I'm not alone in such a wish. Even President Obama, who has asked for more and more spending in each of his annual budget proposals, has called the nation's long-term spending patterns "unsustainable."

We should be cutting small-ticket, medium-ticket, and big-ticket items, and we can do it in a way that doesn't kick out Tiny Tim's crutches or leaves us open to terrorist attacks. But first we need to understand the magnitude of the growth in spending over the past 10 years.

In 2003, the federal government shelled out about $2.2 trillion in nominal dollars. In 2013, it spent about $3.5 trillion. I have trouble figuring out exactly where that extra $1.3 trillion a year is going, but I do know that whatever money is spent by the generous souls in Washington, D.C. isn't printed by elves. It comes from current and future taxes that you and I—or our children and grandchildren—will pay. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections for the next 25 years, the government will never come close to matching outlays with revenues (which CBO already assumes will be significantly higher than the historical average for the past 40 years).

So the only path to sustainability is to cut spending. But where to cut?

Please read the whole thing.

NEXT: Washington Post Interview: Edward Snowden Defends the Constitution Against Clapper, Alexander, Feinstein, Rogers, and Obama

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  1. I want a government that spends less money.

    So, you’re wishing for pestilence and plagues (not to mention teh TERRRRRRAAAAHIZMS) to engulf us.

    Why do you hate America, Nick?

    1. I believe “plague” is one of the defitions of “pestilence.” In any event, plagues are a subcategory.

      /asshole pedant

      1. Actually, pestilence is a subcategory of plagues, as it refers only to diseases, but you can have a plague of animals (ie locusts) which are not pestilent.

        Handy references:





          1. also, yes, ‘chistmas’ is in fact a holiday. its not for 3 more months, only applies to half-jewish hatians, and involves a lot of limbo and crab salad, but hey, I thought I’d mention it.

          2. Why would you do such a horrible thing?!

  2. Merry Christmas! to all you daffy bastards.


        (*and kids yelling)

      2. Buzzkill, Hugh. Just trying to spread a little cheer.

          1. Cortez?

          2. I was looking at those photos, and it struck me: they’re all just a bunch of white dudes. Weird.

            1. Sorta like in that Bing Crosby song.

          3. The link says the National Socialists wanted go paganize Christmas and remove all vestiges of the “oriental religion” of Christianity.

            1. Yeah one of the many many lies I was told in school, that the Nazis were all big time Christians.

  3. I’m looking at Hugo winners trying to find something new to read. Any suggestions?

    1. I just read the first of these, it was decent so I will keep going. Roman detective stories, not sci-fi, though.

      1. Before that the latest Saxon Stories book by Cornwell. Also good.

        1. Before that the Jack Irish series by Peter Temple. Very good Aussie take on modern crime noir. The lingo can be tough though.

          1. I suppose the last scifi-ish book I read that I liked was Neal Stephenson’s Reamde, but that barely qualifies as scifi.

        2. Thanks – I will check them out.

      2. I read one or two of the SPQR series. Not bad, and the Roman history accuracy was pretty good if I recall correctly, but I wasn’t blown away.

    2. I’m about 2/3 of the way through accelerando. Pretty fun read.

      The author’s recent libertarian/bitcoin trolling kind of exposed a bit of a blind spot in the near future part of it — governments still have a ton of power, not hyperinflated or debt trapped, etc.

      Still enjoying it.

      1. Stross oscillates between seeming libertarianism and then seeming leftism. He seems to get liberty and tyranny pretty well, but then strange hatreds of markets and money will creep in. The Laundry series shows he understands bureaucracy and its failings well, but he doesn’t discard it.

        Now, Neal Asher; his Owner series is extremely anti-government and anti-socialist/progressive (they’re just a cover for seeking absolute power) and almost goes full-on anarchist. Don’t be fooled by the blurb on that Amazon page; the “elites” described are not the wealthy rich but rather the genocidal political bosses. Recommended.

        1. I’ve been meaning to read that. Some of the bad reviews on Amazon make me want to read it more.

          1. Read it. Not only is it good, but his portrayals of the people who seek out political power are devastatingly vicious. They are genocidal, sociopathic power-mongering scum. Plus, Assher’s work is always stupendously violent and entertaining.

            I recommend all of Asher’s work, but if you want to read something explicitly anti-government and anti-political, The Owner series is the way to go. If you want to read his other stuff, I suggest starting with The Skinner.

            1. I’ve read most of the other Asher stuff, which I heard about from lurking here. The Skinner is my favorite.

              1. Did you read the rest of the Spatterjay series?

          2. Some of the bad reviews on Amazon make me want to read it more

            now I’m intrigued.

            1. In The Owner series, the political elites are hatching a plan to herd the “zero-asset” citizens (the people on welfare who contribute nothing and have no skills) into zones where they can be eliminated by armed orbiting satellites, thereby reducing the population by billions. Of course, the political elites created the welfare zero-asset class in the first place. And that’s just one aspect of what’s going on in the series; it’s a lot more complicated.

              The series is partially a condemnation of centralized planning, government, and the people who gravitate to it. It’s pretty explicit, which is why he’s gotten the severely negative reviews from leftist morons who read him. And apparently he doesn’t care that he was this obvious with this series. Which is great.

            2. 1.0 out of 5 stars I had to put it aside,
              March 3, 2013
              By A – See all my reviews
              This review is from: The Departure (The Owner) (Paperback)
              As much as I enjoyed most of Asher’s Polity stories, I just could not stomach this book and got only part way through before I had to set it aside. If Nazi porn is your kind of thing or you don’t feel queasy indulging the kind of paranoid black helicopter fantasies the Far Right so often use to demonize the Left, maybe you will enjoy it. As for me, the violence is so over the top that it made me feel physically sick.

              1. Here’s a good excerpt from another one:
                The Departure has met with relatively poor reviews, and, unfortunately, they are well-deserved. Asher himself appears to believe that the right-wing slant so evident in the book is what turns off many people, or perhaps simply that it’s not a Polity book. I don’t think this is the case. Instead, I think that Asher used The Departure as a mechanism to vent his frustrations with what he sees as an ever-more-stifling Liberal-leaning world political stage that, as human institutions tend to do, at some point made the jump from serving mankind to simply consolidating power. The Departure as a result is a bitter, spleen-filled series of “I told you so” statements centered on a series of snapshots of privacy violations and malfeasance perpetrated by the totalitarian state upon the sheep-like populace. It is, I suspect, what Ayn Rand would write if she had lived a few decades later.

              2. Yes, exactly. And I forgot to add that his centralized tyrannical government is explicitly left-wing, or more precisely, spouts all the left-wing talking points as a cover for power. He’s not even trying to hide the fact that the totalitarian government in the books is modeled entirely on leftist lines. This is why you see reviews like the one you quoted. He wanted to make sure no one could mistake what he was portraying along their own partisan lines and make it about the other TEAM.

        2. That’s been my take on it, yea — strangely between state power and freedom.

          Thanks for the link, I’ll probably look at that one next.

          1. If you like hard scifi, I suggest reading anything from the top guys in hard scifi right now (all Brits for some reason): Neal Asher, Iain Banks (he just died), Alistair Reynolds, Richard K Morgan (I suggest only reading the Takeshi Kovacs series if you don’t want to pull your hair out over retarded free market hatred), and Charles Stross of course.

            1. Woken Furies was pretty well balanced as the revolutionary characters were deeply flawed. I could understand the motivation of anyone who would want to sick a mercenary corps on their asses.

            2. His Black Widow comic series was infuriating, immoral even, as he based it on a lie. He contrasted the old Soviet Union to modern Russia, putting the later in a favorable light. He claimed the later is worse than the former due to corporations coming in taking advantage of the collapse and exploiting the Russian people. The old Soviet Union is at fault for all of their current ills. Feudal oligarchs took control of the major industrial cities shortly after the death of Stalin, and did not relinquish control with the fall of the central government.

              1. He claimed the later former is worse than the former later due to corporations coming in taking advantage of the collapse and exploiting the Russian people.

  4. …”I want a government that spends less money.”…

    All we need is a bunch of voters realistic enough to understand there is no free shit.

    1. Sheesh. Next you’l claim there’s no Santa Claus.

      1. He won’t be visitng this year, because the NSA wants to get a hold of his surveillence technology.

      2. It is sad that most people outgrow the bleef in sandy claws, but still remain convinced that the government can deliver pixy dust.

        1. Clap harder! Tinkerbell The Feds need more money.

    2. All we need is a bunch of voters realistic enough to understand there is no free shit.

      I would disagree. You need either A) ideological voters B) no voters at all, if you’ll pardon my inner anarcho-capitalist.

      For the average person to vote ‘realistically’ as you mean it, they’d require economic, philosophical and political information that they don’t have and that you can’t reasonably expect the majority of people to attain. At best, you can hope voters will be pragmatic instead of completely irrational. That’s the problem that lies at the heart of ‘democracy’ as a means of distributing political power.

      There’s a number of solutions to this but the best ones would be to either severely limit the power of government so it would be utterly ineffective when used as an instrument of tyranny or to abolish coercive political monopolies altogether.

  5. “My One-Item Christmas List: A Government That Stops Playing Santa”


  6. OT: Wilco is pretty fucking good. They’ve taken a strange journey over the last 20 years, yet consistently make great records.

    I like chicken wings. I’m gonna’ shower and go to BW3.

    1. I agree with you. Wilco sounds nothing like they did when AM came out. The addition of Nels Cline turned them in a weird (interesting) direction. I like a band that doesn’t make the same record again and again.

      1. Nels Cline, Mike Watt, George Hurley, and Thurston Moore. Live at Alligator Lounge in Santa Monica, CA circa 1996. Total improvisational noise. I took 3 hits of acid to the head, and enjoyed the ride.

        1. That sounds excellent. Maybe I’ll listen to some modern Wilco in a minute. Not much going on at work, but I still have to sit here.

  7. What, no hole-in-ones?

    After a morning workout at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, Obama hit the links in Lanikai, a beachside neighborhood in Kailua a few miles from his vacation home. On the final hole, Obama hit a 10-foot putt that just stopped short of going in.

    Merry Xmas, SUCKERS!

    1. The only reason he missed is the seismic interference from the new island that rose from the sea in His Majestic Presence.

      1. He was golfing in pakistan?

    2. “On the final hole, Obama hit a 10-foot putt that just stopped short of going in.”

      What an odd way to say, *missed*.

      What are they going to do with the flowers that spontaneously grew in his footsteps?

    3. Kim Jong Un would have made the putt. Also, he would have aced the other 17 holes.

    4. Lanikai is one of the nicest beaches on Oahu. The sand is like flour it’s so fine and soft. A friend of mine from Oahu grew up there and told me about that beach. Fuck Obama for going there, the shit.

      1. Lanikai beach is a rocky small piece of junk. Every time they replenish the sand the current takes it a short distance to Kailua beach which is everything you describe Episiarch. The beach is wonderful. The problem is when the anointed one is around they close the north end of the beach and every time he drives out they close all the roads 10 minutes early screwing up traffic. My neighborhood breathes a sigh of relief when he leaves.

  8. Hey Count Negroni, you ever try anything like this?

    1. I haven’t, sounds interesting.

  9. Merry Christmas, puny earthlings!

    45 years ago.

  10. Nick keeps making the erroneous statement that this money is ever going to be paid back. It’s not. There may be a day of reckoning in the financial system where everyone takes a haircut, but this debt, along with the massive debts of the rest of the world, will never be paid back. I don’t think taxes will be increased here with the intention of paying debt, only wealth transfer. Inflation is obviously a risk too, even if it’s not hyper-inflation. But we will always run deficits, meaning we will never pay back the debt.

    1. I don’t agree with modern monetary theory (MMT) because it is just a cover for more central planning (I like to think of it as modern Marxism theory), but they are correct about fiat currencies; as long as you can keep printing, you can always pay debts of your currency. You may not be able to borrow future money if confidence is lost, and currency collapse is certainly a risk. But everyone in the world is using fiat currencies for now (an forever if central bankers continue to strong-arm us), so you only need to better than the half of the other crappy fiats. So we will continue printing money and running up debts until there is a massive currency disruption.

  11. Cut.

  12. Twitter closes at $69.85 today. Merry fucking Christmas!

  13. I want a government that spends less money. I’m not alone in such a wish. Even President Obama, who has asked for more and more spending in each of his annual budget proposals, has called the nation’s long-term spending patterns “unsustainable.”

    I hope you’re not implying that you and the Messiah want the same thing, because it appears to me Obama only thinks the nation’s long-term spending patterns are unsustainable because the government isn’t taking enough money from people with the temerity to be productive.

  14. I couldn’t bear to even look at the comments at Time. How dumb are they? As dumb as you would expect? Dumber?

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