Two of the topics that I most frequently write about are the Problem of Growth and the Decline of the Nation-State (links go to keynote papers on each topic). Today, I'll discuss how these two phenomena interact--specifically, why the decline of the Nation-State means that there are no political solutions within the Nation-State system to the Problem of Growth (and why our political problems ultimately stem from our failure to address the Problem of Growth):
Much modern political commentary focuses, in one form or another, on our failure to reign in the growth of government--whether it's spending, taxes, debt, invasion of our private lives, etc. This is certainly more frequent on the conservative/libertarian side of the political spectrum, but equally relevant is the lack of discussion of this trend on progressive/liberal side of the spectrum (where the discussion tends to focus on the same trend, but in multi-national corporations, finance, the rich, etc.). Unconsciously, it's really all discussing the same issue, and while I think it’s a start to recognize that government (or corporations) needs to get smaller (at least if we want to move toward sustainable and resilient increases in freedom, opportunity, and median per capita happiness, as opposed to the opposite direction), this realization must be paired with an understanding of the source of the Problem of Growth. It isn’t this administration, or these politicians. No election results will reverse the trend. No new political platform of any party or politician within the system will lead to solutions. The source of the problem is instead a fundamental attribute of our *system*.
Our government is a centralized hierarchy, on two levels (here I'm referring to government and the organizations that seek to come to power within it, not American federalism). Such hierarchies engage in what anthropologists call peer-polity interaction–in other words, they need to grow, or be out-competed for resources by peers that do. This is true of what some call “national” economies, of political parties, of agencies, etc. It’s a structural attribute, and can only be changed by changing the structure.
Even if, theoretically, a political party could win elections on a platform of reducing the size, scope, and intensity of government; actually deliver on those promises; and then hold on to control of government long enough to make this a trend (doubtful, in my opinion), it would be a mistake to think that this would actually impact the problem you focus on in your post. This is because the fantasy that Nation-States within a global Nation-State system are the only game in town. The Nation-State, predicated on the theory of absolute sovereignty over some Cartesian territory, is already a relic of the past, and we increasingly hold on to this guise only out of populist political expediency while our actual institutions move toward a Market-State. But most significantly, the crumbling of the Nation-State is increasingly leading to a system without true sovereignty–our world is increasingly defined by overlapping power networks: “Nation-States,” multinational corporations, trans-national black-market and gray-market networks, cross-border cultural affinities and religious identities, etc. This is why politicians cannot “solve” the problem of government growth by merely reducing the size and scope of our notion of “government”–with sovereignty of government over physical territory modest and quickly eroding, government itself is but one “peer” in the peer-polity competition between these many competing powers. Even if you could reduce “government,” without addressing the source of the Problem of Growth the end result will only be the imposition of the same growth-derived problems from another source.
Readers may also find my litigation checklist of interest.