The best government is that which governs least?

Not your call to make. The quote does not imply such a thing, and such a restriction was never brought up by those I have heard utter the phrase.

Sorry, I just missed that.

So, okay… In terms of economic regulation, Hong King probably had ‘the government that governs least’ from 1961 to 1997, and it also had the most dramatic increase in GDP and per capita income over that time.

In general, economic performance correlates to smaller government. Canada under-performed the U.S when we had higher taxes, spending and debt, and once we corrected for that we began to out-perform the U.S.

Europe has higher regulations and taxes than North America, and a significantly lower standard of living.

New Zealand had large government and heavy industrial subsidies, and nearly went bankrupt. Free market reforms turned it around.

The same thing happened in Scandinavia and in Asia, where moving away from heavy government control and high taxes sparked a massive increase in the standard of living in many places.

Are there examples of countries where government took more control, raised taxes and regulations - and things improved? Maybe there are, but I can’t think of one.

?? I suppose it depends on how you estimate “standard of living”. The US ranks about 20th in “Quality of Life” scores, with the much-more-socialist Canada and Scandinavian countries taking the top spots.

Certainly the middle-class Europeans I know tend to feel that their universal healthcare, better medical outcomes, worker rights protections, ample vacations, environmental protections, parental leave and childcare policies, quality education, low-cost higher education, gun regulations, etc., make their standard of living far more desirable than that of their American counterparts.

? Scandinavia’s part of Europe, right?

Sure: pretty much all the developed nations post-Industrial Revolution, for example. The introduction of measures like the eight-hour day, worker and environmental protections, housing regulations, etc., did a huge amount to make life better for immiserated workers.

According to this analysis, Canada has more or less the same tax rates as the US:

@Kimstu got ahead of me, other measurements show that many countries in the EU are ahead or close to the US in the standards of living. Countries with a better safety net and more taxes to pay for it.

Not sure if it was directed at Sam a long time a go, but as I pointed at him or other conservative veteran of the SDMB, I’m waiting already for decades to see those countries to suffer economical disasters because they treat their citizens better. IIRC, several have problems yes, but as the standard of living shows, Chomsky was right, how the elites (that still control a lot of our government) in the US treat the less wealthy is a travesty when compared to most developed nations.

Yeah, I think the libertarian arguments on this tend to be very one-sided. They justifiably point out the problems with super-socialist setups where command economies and excessive government interference really degrade quality of life, but they blithely ignore situations in capitalism where underregulation and too much laissez-faire also produce really shit outcomes.

They aren’t able to advocate for a rational middle ground because the propaganda always has to be pushing for reducing taxes, decreasing regulation, and reducing government control. No matter where you are on the economic spectrum, the a priori assumption for them is always that “reducing government” will improve your situation while “increasing government” will make it worse. They tend to finesse this by focusing on outcomes for the relatively wealthy, who are generally the greatest beneficiaries of laissez-faire government systems.

So, while liberals can readily admit that command economies suck and that tax rates and regulatory control can sometimes be too high and market-liberalizing economic reforms can sometimes be beneficial, libertarians tend to be ideologically debarred from acknowledging that more regulation or higher taxes can ever be a good thing.

This is a really silly comparison. Canada didn’t have the housing bubble that the US had, and didn’t have the fraudulent loan problems that the US had. That’s because the Canadian OSFI kept a much tighter rein on Canadian banks than the US did. Companies like Countrywide, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers just didn’t exist up there.

OSFI is a much heavier handed regulator than the Fed for most regulatory areas. And, since there are only 6 banks in Canada, each one is systemically important, so OSFI is all over them. The US has thousands of banks, and many of them were hurt by the bursting of the housing bubble. The whole mortgage system in Canada is completely different than the one in the US, so while housing bubbles are certainly possible, there are more controls that would make it difficult. Anyway, the different performance of the two economies was certainly not from a more hands-off approach in Canada.

To the OP, since “least” is an absolute, it sounds like the speaker is advocating for the smallest, least effective government possible. So, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, I guess.

I hate to keep harping on the turn of the 20th century, but people of the least government ilk do point to the era as one of incredible innovation, massive economic advances, successful incorporation of a huge population influx, growth of cities, and the rise of America as a world economic power, therefore reasons why government should be kept out of the way of business.

This argument can only be made if one ignores the massive government assistance I pointed out earlier, stupendous amounts of racism, classism, and sexism, the epic large city slums, gigantic exploitation of labor, and environmental disasters that we are still trying to cope with. You know, incidentals.

Any modern-day least government arguments must also ignore the externalities such behavior would create. And do.