The world is full of people that talk about the sweet and gentle things that government does. It helps the poor; it gives grandma her health care; it cares about kids.
Er, not exactly. When the government does something it does it with your money. It is you that helps the poor, gives to grandma, and cares about kids. Government is not about caring; government is force. Let's expand this notion a little further.
Government is Force. What is a government, reduced to its essentials? It is an armed force that occupies an area of land with the power to extract tribute from the people living there. It might be a band of twenty guerrillas, hiding out in the mountains. But unless it gets money from a foreign power, it will survive by extracting tribute from the people it controls--by force. If it doesn't extract tribute by force, it isn't a government, it's a business.
Politics is Power. People that go into politics are people who like to fight. They want power. They run for election and the make promises to the voters about a glorious future they have in mind for the voters. But the promises are by-play. The name of the game is to get the support of the voters and get your hands on the levers of power.
Government Spending is Handing Out Plunder. Government spending is the loot that a government distributes to its supporters. Reduced to the minimum, the guerrilla group in the mountains, government spending is spending to keep the guerrilla group armed and fed and keep the taxes coming in. But as a guerrilla group becomes a formal government it acquires the power to support not just its armed fighters but its civilian supporters. So just as a victorious armed raid on a neighboring land ends with a division of the plunder, so also does a victorious political party distribute the loot among its supporters. But wait, you say! What about all the wonderful things that government does with health care and education?
The fact is that everything government does, it does badly. Social Security? If we have to force people to save for retirement we would do better forcing everyone to have an account at Fidelity or Vanguard. The money would actually go into creating jobs for young people when we want to stop working. Health care? The current system gives a ton of people free health care by forcing other people to pay for it. People use free stuff freely. If people actually paid for their health care (and saved for the big expense of health care in the last six months of life) it would cost a lot less. Education? Half of the kids entering college need remedial courses. What about the kids that don't go to college? Let's not even think of going there. Welfare? Government welfare has destroyed the low-income family.
To repeat: government buys votes by distributing plunder to its supporters. In the old days of the absolute monarchs government used to buy support with sinecures and pensions. Today it buys support with tenured jobs and social spending. So nothing has changed.
Taxes are Tribute. Taxes are the tribute that the laborer pays government for the right to earn a living. The first thing that our guerrilla group in the mountains does is start collecting tribute to keep its armed group fed and armed. It collects taxes by going around from house to house requisitioning food and money at the point of a gun. In a settled society, government exacts tribute from everyone that works or buys and sells. Thus every time that a worker gets a paycheck, the government takes its share. Every time a merchant sells a product, the government gets a share. Every homeowner pays a tax on his property. It is tribute, the tribute that the servant pays to the master.
Debt Ends in Default. Whenever government issues debt it is spending now and taxing later. Chances are that it won't do the hard thing, and fund the debt with taxes. Instead it will default on the debt. Sooner or later all governments default on their debt. Usually they don't flat out refuse to pay interest and principal. Instead they inflate the currency. Or they "reschedule" the debt by unilaterally lowering the interest rate and moving the maturity to a later date. Or they throw the evil bankers in jail. Or they just take money out of peoples' bank accounts. Remember, government is force.
The great question about any proposal for a new government spending program is simple. Is this really something that has to be done by force? After all, if it were worth doing, someone would already be doing it. Without force.