December 18, 2017 9:34AM

Matt Damon in Downsizing

The new science fiction movie Downsizing with Matt Damon opens at theaters this week. Wiki provides a summary:

Downsizing imagines what might happen if, as a solution to over-population, Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink humans to 5 inches (13 cm) tall and propose a 200-year global transition from big to small, but with one catch: the procedure cannot be reversed. People soon realize how much further money goes in a miniaturized world, and with the promise of a better life, everyman Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in Omaha in order to become small and move to a new downsized community—a choice that triggers life-changing adventures. To Paul's horror and outrage, he finds out that Audrey backed out at the last second. After the couple understands that they do not have a future together, they divorce and Paul must now figure out how to start his life over in a completely different world.

That sounds interesting. But I think the following tweaks would have improved the plot:

Downsizing imagines what might happen if, as a solution to over-spending, Cato social scientists discover how to shrink the federal government to 5 percent of GDP and propose a 20-year transition from big to small, but with one advantage: the procedure cannot be reversed. People soon realize how much further money goes in a world with a miniaturized Washington, and with the promise of a better life, most Americans abandon their partisan acrimony and embrace their newly empowered local communities—a choice that triggers life-changing adventures. To widespread horror and outrage, Americans find that a few big government zealots try to sabotage the peaceful transition. After the zealots understand that Americans want freedom, they emigrate to a completely different world to impose their ideas, which are divorced from reality.

For this version, I would cast Vince Vaughn instead of Matt Damon and Julienne Davis instead of Kristen Wig.

Anyway, while we are waiting for Hollywood to make Downsizing 2 along these lines, we should ask policymakers to pursue real-life downsizing of the federal budget. The proposals here would chop spending from 23 percent of GDP to 18 percent. More cuts would be needed to reach 5 percent, but remember that defense is only 3 percent of GDP, and other spending is less important.  

DownsizingGovernment.org discusses how to miniaturize federal agencies. Rather than shrinking bureaucrats to 5 inches tall, it proposes to eliminate their programs, allowing them to start over in the completely different world of the private sector.

Cato’s new E-book, Downsizing Federal Government Spending, includes essays by Cato scholars on how to divorce federal taxpayers from farm subsidies, infrastructure spending, and other programs that shrink their wallets.