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12.01.2008 0

The Conservative Pretense?

  • On: 12/05/2008 09:50:37
  • In: Uncategorized
  • “[W]e have long been living in a mixed economy. Government is growing, but the shift is of degree, not kind. Moreover, there’s no plausible escape from this trajectory. For now, government needs to stimulate the economy, but even after the recession ends, there will still be pressure for more government spending… Conservatives want to deal with this trend toward larger government by pretending we can reverse it, but that is unlikely to happen. Liberals want to celebrate the collapse of ‘free-market ideology,’ but free markets do a lot of jobs better than government. What we should do is embrace growing government but also be ruthless about making government and markets more efficient. [emphasis added]”—Sebastien Mallaby, “Capitalism: The Remix,” The Washington Post, December 4th, 2008.

    For those who believe that government may be limited, Big Government and its adherents have a message for you: Keep dreaming.

    We’re apparently living in La-la-land. The historical trend and the real truth is that governments only grow, only take more power, only restrict more liberty over time, and those trends are unlikely to abate. The latter is actually true, and for that reason, Mr. Mallaby in his op-ed chalks up limited government to a mere pretense.

    And so, he argues for a leaner, more-efficient—and yet growing—government that utilizes free markets in some capacity, probably to keep it funded. But, Mr. Mallaby writes, “[T]o get away with big government, you must have smart government.” Here, Mr. Mallaby pretends—ahem—that socialism is just fine and dandy, it just needs to be managed more wisely.

    And why might that be? Because government is intrusive by its very nature? Tends towards overregulation? Tends to overtax? The truth is, the growth of government must be reversed—it is strangling the economy, eliminating the promise of prosperity, and trampling upon individual liberty.

    Since the Founding, the federal government has grown in every way imaginable, much further beyond its original, constitutional, limited purposes. This has always been justified, as Mr. Mallaby does, as a response to some emergency that government must take upon more powers to resolve. The piece is specific in this regard:

    “Yes, the financial crisis has triggered an added surge in government. But this has happened in every recession since 1980 and does not represent an intellectual U-turn.”

    Which is really very deterministic. Reversing government ought not be pursued because it is “unlikely”. Surges in government always happen during recessions, so get used to it.

    To be fair, Mr. Mallaby does generate a positive argument in favor of growing government during economic downturns by noting that they represent an exception to the rule of non-interventionism: “[I]n an acute recession, government spending has to expand aggressively to make up for weak private spending.”

    This is a false narrative, however. By this notion, a receding economy will not soon recover without intervention, and in the current actual case, by extreme deficit spending. By implication, government can thus replace the people as the source of wealth merely by printing, borrowing, or simply spending more money.

    Mr. Mallaby essentially argues that the American economy is dependent upon government interventionism to manage its way through the past and current crises. And clearly it has been.

    But it is only through the combination of all individuals’ economic decisions to acquire wealth that actually and ultimately creates it. Government does not create wealth, it destroys it. It taxes wealth. It removes opportunities to create wealth. It restricts the expansion of wealth.

    So it is not by mere pretense that conservatives call for government to be rolled back.

    It is because limited government is an enduring principle upon which individual liberty and prosperity depends for survival.

    But, if Mr. Mallaby is right: If limited government is a dream, then Big Government is a nightmare.

    Robert Romano is the Editor of ALG News Bureau.

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