What Is the Best Way for Measuring the Size of the State? 3

I recently had a conversation with a professional sociologist, a liberal who actually believes in federal bureaucracy as an ideal, and who claimed that the best way of measuring the size of government is to consider the total number of government employees and their ratio to the size of the work force as a whole. According to him, the total number of federal employees has actually decreased in the past decades, meaning that the federal government has actually shrunk. His comments:

I do have some stats.  My old social problems texts started me thinking on this problem.  My favorite Social Problems Text was by J. John Palen– a VCU sociology professor who retired about 5 years ago.  His book is now out of print and dated, (2001) On Page 226 it states:

“When discussing the size of the federal government, two facts have to be kept in mind: (1) the number of federal government employees has actually been declining for a number of years, and (2) federal government employees are declining as a proportion of the total labor force. In 1960 when Dwight Eisenhower turned over the presidency to John F. Kennedy, the federal government employed almost 4 percent of American workers. Today, federal employment constitutes only 2 percent of American workers. Also, the federal government now accounts for only 16 percent of all government workers; 84 percent of government workers now are found at the state and local level. Local government is where growth is taking place.”

This caught my attention and Palen was the person who seemed to express it most clearly.  But you have to be careful about statistics like this– I scanned some recent sources and there seems to be considerable variation in the numbers that they report, depending upon who is included, excluded, etc. You can see what I found at the bottom of this.

Here is one article that sums it up: http://economics.about.com/od/howtheuseconomyworks/a/gov_growth.htm (But “About.com” is hardly a scholarly source). You’ll see a lot of stuff from conservatives on the growth of the Fed– But they generally discuss the size of the federal budget or debt and some of them don’t take inflation into account.  I prefer to look at the numbers of employees.  Finally, the budget figures that we see also include money that is paid out to private contractors who do government work. So the question in this regard is can we count these private contractors as government employees?  I’m not sure that even conservatives would want to do this.

Here’s some more material (more recent) on the number of federal employees.

Federal/Civilian Work Force Statistics Fact Book for 2007 shows a slight decline from 2000 to 2006 in federal civilian employment —  But I’m not happy with this because it is incomplete. http://www.opm.gov/feddata/factbook/2007/2007FACTBOOK.pdf

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is also a good source;  (It points out with nearly 2 million employees (excluding the U.S. Post Office, and the various intelligence agencies; CIA, NSA, DIA, and NIMA) is the nation’s largest employer. But, its difficult to find historical trends on this site.

I always like the U.S. Bureau of the Census… http://www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs041.htm– I’ve looked over the Statistical abstract of the U.S.  Not as clear as I would like, but you can see the trends…

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0486.pdf–(This source shows a decline from 2.766 mil to 1.812 mil between 2000 and 2007– Not quite what I wanted, though)

Again from the Census– (A little better but still not exactly what I want– This covers the period from 1990 to 2006)  Table 489. Federal Executive Branch (Nonpostal) Employment by Race and National Origin: 1990 to 2006 http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0489.pdf– A drop from 21 million to 18 million.

This one’s a little better– going back to 1970:  Table 484. Federal Civilian Employment and Annual Payroll by Branch: 1970 to 2008– http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0484.pdf

Finally we have this ( http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0487.pdf)  Table 487. Federal Civilian Employment by Branch and Agency: 1990 to 2008

Two questions arise from this.

What is the best way to measure the size of the state? The number of state employees? The amount of GDP consumed by the state? The total of public spending and debt? The number of laws on the books? Something else?

The second question is what layer of government intrudes most into society and into our day to day lives, and maintains the largest overall bureaucratic enterprise? The majority of criminal cases are prosecuted in state courts. Some of the most intrusive regulations can come from the local level, like fix-it or ticket laws, zoning, licensing, land use, and so forth. The feds have war-making powers and, potentially, the power of conscription.

As an anarchist, decentralist, and secessionist I certainly maintain that the federal government is the most undesirable of the levels of government. Pennsylvania or Nashville have not killed a million people in Iraq, three million in Southeast Asia, hundreds of thousands in Central America, millions more in counterinsurgency programs, hundreds of thousands with a single bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, incineration of entire cities like Dresden, etc.

If Bridgeport passes an intolerable law, it’s easier to relocate out of the city than out of the country. Even if states have larger bureaucracies than the feds, emigration to another state is easier than transnational emigration. And even the worst local and state policies don’t produce the casualties generated by the Empire.

Ontario Anti-Prostitute Laws Struck Down Reply

Landmark Canadian court ruling.

Bedford and prostitutes Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch took on the legal might of the federal and provincial governments, their battle waged on a shoestring legal aid budget and the volunteer services of expert witnesses and lawyers.

Scott said the decision means sex workers no longer have to “worry about being raped, robbed or murdered.”

Himel found Criminal Code prohibitions against keeping a common bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of the trade violated the women’s Charter rights to freedom of expression and security of the person.

Rather than making prostitution itself illegal, the federal government has attempted to curtail the trade by criminalizing related activities.

Bedford, Scott and Lebovitch argued those prohibitions prevented them from conducting their business in the safety of their homes or brothels and forced them into hasty street conversations with potential customers, with no time to weed out those who might be dangerous.

How's This for "Hope and Change"? Reply

Obama argues his assassination program is a state secret. Glenn Greenwald discusses it. Says Glenn:

At this point, I didn’t believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record.  In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki’s father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims.  That’s not surprising:  both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality.  But what’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”:  in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.

The Geography of the Rural Poor Reply

A study showing where the rural poor are located, including a breakdown along ethnic lines.

Unfortunately, the authors offer no solutions other than more welfare statism. One thing I would love to see anarchists and libertarians do is wage a campaign to expose and attack laws and regulations that constrict the supply of housing, the availability of arable land, or opportunities for small entrepreneurship. A campaign against zoning ordinances, for instance, would be something that all libertarians and anarchists of any hyphen should be able to agree on, and it would be an issue of benefit to poor and working people across the cultural, racial, geographical, and political spectrum.

The Dangers of Decentralization? Words from a Reader 9

Some comments from a reader named “Jared”:

Totalitarian humanism is something that I agree is a serious threat and where I live in Canada, it has advanced into law where people can be incarcerated for expressing opinions that are deemed hateful.

[Keith: At present, the First Amendment and a journalistic class conscious of its own self-interest prevents the formal censorship that has emerged in the Western European countries and Canada. This could very well change in the future. Modern American liberals are still somewhat under the residual influence of classical liberal values regarding a number of issues, such as free speech and freedom of the press. But that could end as the PC ideologues gain ever greater power.]

When it comes to the far right and their criticisms of leftist authoritarianism, I think they are on the mark. In many respects I find the authoritarianism of managerial liberalism to be far more distasteful than the worst right wing small town authoritarianism. My reasons for this are that while the crude authoritarianism of the latter sort is laughable to most, the former is taken seriously by people in the cultural elite. Also, the right wing type is up front about it’s authoritarianism while the left often conceals it behind all sort’s of nice sound rhetoric such as, “we as a society,” we are the government” etc. That was one of the things that angered me so much about the way Ron Paul was treated when the whole newsletter scandal broke. The fact that people were so up in arms about Paul’s paper authoritarianism while the media darling, Rudy Giuliani, was never criticized in the mainstream media ( that I saw) about his real life authoritarianism while he was mayor.

[Keith: Yes! A socially conservative but libertarian Republican is far less acceptable to the liberal elite than a socially liberal but authoritarian Republican such as Giuliani.]

On decentralization, I think that the reasons for some of my concerns about what sort of societies might develop come more from what I have seen in both the contemporary anarchist and libertarian movements, from an the perspective of an outsider I might add.  As you have said that strategy is a primary concern, I think you would agree that these issues are important to any strategic considerations to be made.

In your past articles, you have discussed your experience with left-anarchist movement years ago and criticized many of the ridiculous elements in that movement. From what I have observed as an outsider, the same movement today of my generation is as bad as the movement was when you were involved, which is the reason that I have no interest in being involved with any of those groups. One thing that really bothers me is not just the fact that those various groups are uncooperative and engage in pointless feuds, but also what accompanies the interpersonal nastiness is a victim mentality that such people have when it comes to the state. Whenever protests occur such as at the recent G-20 in Toronto, invariably what will come out are all sorts of writings, blog posts, and videos full of people complaining about minor mistreatment at the hands of the state, such people give ammunition to the critics who charge that people involved in these anarchist groups are just a bunch of pampered, sheltered, and spoiled brats who are live in complete ignorance of the world around them.

[Keith: Many such protesters do indeed convey an image of “How dare that cop arrest me for throwing a rock through a window?” hooliganism.]

I realize that what I have just stated will seem pointlessly repetitive to you as you haven expressed similar sentiments in your own writings in the past. The reason that I am bring this up now is in the light of the kinds of communities that would exist in a decentralized system. If the current system fails in a sudden way, there will be many groups vying for power and most of them will be a lot worse then the current group of people that control our centralized system. While you have argued that authoritarian groups may gain control in rural areas, but that cities would be a different story, I still have many concerns regarding them. The reason is that in cities there gangs and other organized crime groups who would clearly seek an opportunity to grab more power and control if they saw an opportunity to, which they would have if the current system fell apart. Now if my analysis of most contemporary anarchists and for that matter libertarians (especially of the left types) is correct, it is clear that such people would be absolutely powerless in the face of those groups that would seek the fill the power vacuum left in the absence of the state. I would add that as critical as I am of the police, the fact is that in the current system they are bound by certain rules of conduct whereas the groups that I have mentioned are not.

[Keith: The key to the problems of decentralization is still more decentralization. Let’s say a predatory gang comes to dominate an urban region in an “Escape From New York” scenario. Surrounding communities might build a fence around it and essentially imprison and quarantine the offenders, which I think is the most preferable solution to violent crime anyway.]

One example of what I am describing is among the libertarians who make up the Free State project, which I been following for the past few years. I would invite you to check out some of the activism done there freekeene.com, and you would see many of the same sorts of silliness such as pointless civil disobedience acts, silly protests, and other absurd antics. On top of the fact that such acts do nothing to build a realistic alternative to the current system, the activists have also earned an extremely negative reputation among the people in those communities where they do their activism.

[Keith: That doesn’t surprise me a bit. PR and marketing never were the strong suits of anarchists.]

I suppose that given what I have written here, it isn’t surprising that you would break with both left wing anarchists and libertarians the silly and cowardly nature of so many in those movements. It’s clear that such groups have not improved with the times, but have in fact degenerated. If there ever comes a time when there is a serious movement against the empire, I would rather have this guy on my side (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7420469.stm) than a thousand of the current crybabies that are rampant in anti-authoritarian movements today.

[Keith: I can only imagine what Antonio Baron would think of today’s anarchist movement. I have always said I would rather have five quality people in my camp than five hundred mediocrities or losers]

Topics for debate 1

Chris George recently offered these comments in response to my “Liberty and Populism: Building an Effective Resistance Movement for North America” essay. Chris raises some really good issues here. I’d like to know what others here might have to say on some of these questions.

On the whole, I think I’m mostly in agreement with the pluralist approach. In some respects I think it might be a little too unfocused on anarchism and more focused on pragmatic decentralism/secessionism. But that’s a minor gripe, considering that what I think needs to transpire first anyway. As a rhetorical tool, I always like to have my end goals remain the unwavering focus.

Some things I didn’t agree with or I’d need more convincing of (mostly public choice critiques):

Use of the political means: I’m all for anarchists “running” in elections as a way of using elections for education or mocking the system, but I’m extremely skeptical of any attempts to win. The worst will rise to the top. Elections, as I view them, are a crutch. I’m not sure if there’s one person that I know who I would trust in any position of political authority. My family who I trust aren’t anarchists and the anarchists I know of aren’t people I know well know enough to trust. The current environment is too vastly populated for us to be successful by any means of manipulation, politics being primary among them.

Secretive leadership: I can see the appeal of secretive anarchist leadership, but it makes me uneasy. Keeping things secret from the State has its benefits but I’m not sure if it’s necessary at this point. But secrecy may result in the State being more able to crackdown or use that secrecy as something to demonize leadership with. Plus, I don’t think there’s any need to keep our ideas hidden from those on the ground. Seems a little too “scientific socialist” to me.

Philosopher kings: I used to hate Plato for this stuff, but I’ve actually become a lot more sympathetic, if not supportive (and if not simply because the foolishness of most people is nauseating). However, I’m not sure how it could be enforced/secured or how people could be selected. The methods of training you suggested I find to be problematic for the same reason all testing for merit has problems. I would say as a matter of practicality that there should be no one with enforceable power over more than 10,000 – 50,000 people (just an arbitrary ballpark). Any kinds of federation meeting, I would hope, would involve several thousand equally empowered delegates.

Violence/Class Conflict: Call me an optimist, but I don’t think that the State could withstand a dramatic ideological shift to anarchism within the population. If it didn’t, then I think defensive violence on the part of workers taking over their workplaces and communities taking over their roads and government buildings may be in order barring any other more practical means, but actually attacking the State and military, I think would be a bad idea. Perhaps I lack the warrior spirit and the petite bourgeoisie criticism definitely applies to me, but I’ve got to look out for my interests as well.

NKM’s tagline “Life is the process of resolving conflicts that have no basis in reality” reflects my opinion that conflicts are mutually destructive and that there are preferable ways of resolving them than through violence, politics, manipulation, fraud, lying, etc. A lot of anarchists take an us against them mentality, but I don’t. For me, the battle is humanity against human institutions that do no good for anyone besides a psychopath here of there.

Also, there was some anti-consumerist/seemingly primitivist elements in there which I have some sympathies for but am mostly against.

Spent most of the time on criticism, but I’m more in agreement than not. Here’s my platform: radical decentralization to an anarchist end point, federation and free trade to libertarian future.

Iraq: South Korea in the Middle East? Reply

Interesting article from Scott Ritter.

It is in this topsy-turvy world created by political hype and media spin that a president can, with a straight face, announce the withdrawal of American “combat troops” from Iraq, while leaving behind six combat brigades (renamed, but not reorganized) comprising some 50,000 troops to fight and die in “noncombat.”

The war is over but tens of thousands of troops remain. Where have we seen that before?

U.S. Population Growth Reply

U.S. Census Bureau data on population growth. Clearly, the growth of incarceration rates is light years ahead of what could be accounted for by ordinary population growth.

The Census Bureau also provides projections for the future, but these are highly speculative. We have shown their ‘middle estimates’ extending to 2100.

year population
2100 570,954,000 population of United States in 2100
2090 533,605,000 population of United States in 2090
2080 497,830,000 population of United States in 2080
2070 463,639,000 population of United States in 2070
2060 432,011,000 population of United States in 2060
2050 403,687,000 population of United States in 2050
2040 377,350,000 population of United States in 2040
2030 351,071,000 population of United States in 2030
2020 324,928,000 population of United States in 2020
2010 299,862,000 population of United States in 2010
2000 281,422,000 population of United States in 2000
1990 248,710,000 population of United States in 1990
1980 226,542,000 population of United States in 1980
1970 203,302,000 population of United States in 1970
1960 179,323,000 population of United States in 1960
1950 151,325,000 population of United States in 1950
1940 132,164,000 population of United States in 1940
1930 123,203,000 population of United States in 1930
1920 106,022,000 population of United States in 1920
1910 92,228,000 population of United States in 1910
1900 76,212,000 population of United States in 1900
1890 62,980,000 population of United States in 1890
1880 50,189,000 population of United States in 1880
1870 38,558,000 population of United States in 1870
1860 31,443,000 population of United States in 1860
1850 23,192,000 population of United States in 1850
1840 17,069,000 population of United States in 1840
1830 12,866,000 population of United States in 1830
1820 9,638,000 population of United States in 1820
1810 7,240,000 population of United States in 1810
1800 5,308,000 population of United States in 1800
1790 3,929,000 population of United States in 1790

Your Guide to Recording the Police Reply

Helpful tips from Radley Balko.

So far Massachusetts is the only state to explicitly uphold a conviction for recording on-duty cops, and Illinois and Massachusetts are the only states where it is clearly illegal. The Illinois law has yet to be considered by the state’s Supreme Court, while the Massachusetts law has yet to be upheld by a federal appeals court. Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler recently issued an opinion concluding that arrests for recording cops are based on a misreading of the state’s wiretapping statute, but that opinion isn’t binding on local prosecutors.

In the remaining 47 states, the law is clearer: It is generally legal to record the police, as long as you don’t physically interfere with them. You may be unfairly harassed, questioned, or even arrested, but it’s unlikely you will be charged, much less convicted. (These are general observations and should not be treated as legal advice.)

55% of Violent Crimes, 84% of Property Crimes Go Unsolved 14

Some interesting stats on the clearance rates for crimes. Two in five murderers, three in five rapists, and three in four armed robbers, and nine in ten burglars “get away with it.” It’s also true that in some large cities the clearance rate for homicides is less than fifty percent, meaning most murderers complete their crimes successfully. There are sections of some U.S. cities where the clearance rate for murders is in the single digits, meaning there are urban zones where murder is de facto decriminalized. Of course, in such a scenario it’s hard to say where “murder” ends and self-defense or “street justice” begins.

The reason for this low clearance rate seems to be the diversion of so much police time and resources to the War on Drugs and other consensual crimes. So says a former New York prison official and a former undercover narcotics agent.