There is a concept that I want to discuss called “starving the beast.” But, before addressing this strategy we have to address the topic of “institutional analysis.” Institutional analysis is analyzing how a institution actually behaves. For example, if one does an institutional analysis of a corporation, it will find that it tries to maximize profit. This shouldn’t be especially controversial. However, institutional analysis has a tendency to be dismissed as conspiracy theory. Institutional analysis differs from conspiracy theory in the amount of evidence that supports it. It is hardly a mere conspiracy theory when the administration stacks the justice department and then the justice department pursues partisan prosecutions, despite administration claims to the contrary.
In institutional analysis, little attention is paid to what the institution says its motives are. Instead, any statement issued from the institution to the public is assumed to be part of achieving the institution’s true goal and as such is not taken at face value. However, earlier thinking of people who lead the organization, internal memos and observable evidence are respected.
In any institution, there is a wide spectrum of agendas. In this respect, any rule or motive will come off as overly simplistic. This does not mean the conclusion should be dismissed. What we are looking for are drivers for behavior, particularly those who lead the organization. For example, it is virtually impossible for the military to disobey the President. While the military might offer some initial resistance, the President has the power to fire and promote people to eventually carry out his will. If the military did disobey the will of a determined President, that would mean the literal breakdown of the institution.
So, what is “starving the beast?” “Starving the beast” is a strategy to undo new deal style social spending by bankrupting the government. It takes advantage of “eat your cake and have it too” aspect of a representative democracy. Simply put, the government maintains or increases expenditures while cutting tax revenues. At some point a huge debt develops that can be leveraged to cut “unnecessary” aspects of the government such as oversight and regulation of industry, public education, and social welfare programs while maintaining “necessary” aspects such as defense spending.
I’m going to break this down into to four parts, and this is obviously the first. Part 2 will look at the history of the idea. Part 3 will see if there is any evidence to support if this idea has been tried. Any conclusions will be drawn in part 4.