Ezra Klein*, as part of his main source of income, yesterday: “The U.S. government is basically an insurance conglomerate with a standing army”
Me, for jack squat, early 2009: “Dispersal of risk, a.k.a. Insurance […] is basically the only other thing the State does besides overt violence.”
Ezra goes on to talk about the muddled & false “debate” on the U.S. budget, mentioning the various interest groups that hash out their slice & brushing up ever so slightly against how the public is trained to categorize spending in terms best summarized as Culture War And A Pony — and then drops most of the context, saying it is all popular otherwise it would’ve been zeroed already.
The initial point made of what the U.S. government does is obvious about any government. I’d be hard pressed to think of an act of a modern state that couldn’t be broken down to insurance, violence, or a mix thereof. If this were all he meant to say, then fine, but it doesn’t mean as much as he acts like it does. On the other hand, say it’s to be taken as a statement on the representative legitimacy of government spending. Touching on the cycle of confuse/rent-seek/repeat behind it poisons his own interpretation: you can’t simultaneously say “We intentionally agreed on all of this” and “most of us, for various reasons, don’t realize WTF we co-signed”.
(* – the chart that Ezra cites & reproduces for this sells the finance sector bailout drastically short, btw.)