Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Sunday, March 26, 2017 :::

A somewhat common rhetorical trope among Republican politicians in the last decade has been the suggestion that certain cabinet-level departments should be closed down; insofar as this is a realistic proposition, it's not that the government wouldn't, say, safeguard its nuclear weapons, but that that would be moved to (say) the department of defense in a reorganization.  Certainly it seems like the number of cabinet-level departments is rather more than you would be likely to create if you were starting from scratch, even assuming the government was going to try to do all the things it tries to do.  Some changes suggest themselves going from the status quo backward — the Commerce Department and the Labor Department should probably be re-combined, with most of the Labor department however going to Justice, and putting VA under defense or HHS would make some sense (it should certainly be viewed as part of the defense budget) — but it might be worth thinking how one would start over from scratch, just as a normative guide.

The initial four departments seem like a good place to start; having some sort of Department of Justice, especially in an age without private prosecution of criminal laws, seems like a no-brainer for any sort of government.  Likewise, a national government should have a Department of Speaking Softly and a Department of Carrying Big Sticks, though I think there's an argument for combining them.  I'm not as confident that a Treasury department per se is as clear; if you're going to have some sort of centralized management of financing etc. in the executive branch, it might well be part of a general Department of Administration, and it's perhaps worth noting in that context that what is now the Bureau of Land Management was part of the Treasury Department until the fifth cabinet position was created, so perhaps that's how it was viewed at the time — the department that managed assets and liabilities that weren't obviously directly within the bailiwick of some other department.  Going from that direction, I'm not sure I see an obvious case for a fifth department.  Perhaps the "Treasury" department should be divided up somewhat by the type of asset being managed and for whom, e.g. whether it's fairly open for use by the public (highways, parks) or not.

::: posted by dWj at 1:22 PM

Perhaps federally-owned land was generally thought of as an investment asset.

I probably give these politicians too much credit for thinking like me, which is dangerous, especially if everyone does it -- successful politicians are often those who can offer broad generalities and get each voter to interpret them in a way that favors the policies that that particular voter favors. So, if I hear a politician suggesting that Agriculture be eliminated, I assume they mean shift food stamps to HHS and phase out the crop insurance subsidies. Maybe someone else who thinks the welfare state is far too generous (or that it should be all-cash) but that subsidizing small farmers is a core function of the government assumes that SNAP will be eliminated and crop insurance will be moved elsewhere.
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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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