Free Markets, Free People
Capitalism: The way back to prosperity
Jeb Bush, in what one can describe as either a trial balloon for his candidacy for President (doubtful) or just a shot across the bow of the big government, crony capitalist crowd, says all the right words in a Wall Street Journal piece:
The right to rise does not require a libertarian utopia to exist. Rather, it requires fewer, simpler and more outcome-oriented rules. Rules for which an honest cost-benefit analysis is done before their imposition. Rules that sunset so they can be eliminated or adjusted as conditions change. Rules that have disputes resolved faster and less expensively through arbitration than litigation.
In Washington, D.C., rules are going in the opposite direction. They are exploding in reach and complexity. They are created under a cloud of uncertainty, and years after their passage nobody really knows how they will work.
We either can go down the road we are on, a road where the individual is allowed to succeed only so much before being punished with ruinous taxation, where commerce ignores government action at its own peril, and where the state decides how a massive share of the economy’s resources should be spent.
Or we can return to the road we once knew and which has served us well: a road where individuals acting freely and with little restraint are able to pursue fortune and prosperity as they see fit, a road where the government’s role is not to shape the marketplace but to help prepare its citizens to prosper from it.
In short, we must choose between the straight line promised by the statists and the jagged line of economic freedom. The straight line of gradual and controlled growth is what the statists promise but can never deliver. The jagged line offers no guarantees but has a powerful record of delivering the most prosperity and the most opportunity to the most people. We cannot possibly know in advance what freedom promises for 312 million individuals. But unless we are willing to explore the jagged line of freedom, we will be stuck with the straight line. And the straight line, it turns out, is a flat line.
The “right to rise” he talks about is the right of the individual to freely pursue “happiness” in the form economic prosperity without the interference of government. And he’s right, that doesn’t require a “libertarian utopia”. It does require much less government and much less intrusion on the economic side (well, actually, in all areas). Ironically, the resulting economic boom would do two things … increase employment and revenue to the government to help pay off the debt and hopefully help eliminate deficit spending.
What Bush is talking about though is a counter-revolution against the second American revolution (during the FDR era) that undid our first. What he’s suggesting is taking government back to its 18th century roots where it fulfilled the night watchman role, and guarded our freedoms and liberty. Yes, that means laws and law enforcement. Anarchy has never been a libertarian ideal nor was it one our Founders espoused. In fact, it may even mean minimal regulation to ensure force and fraud are punished. But certainly, nothing at all like the regime we have today.
The problem, of course, is the other side of the Leviathan we’ve allowed to grow up among us. That side which has fostered an addiction to other people’s money. And you see the split personality we’ve developed as Americans in the polls that reflect a desire to downsize government but not at the expense of the part from which each person benefits. That makes change in the direction needed very hard because feeding the addiction requires a large and intrusive government.
Our problems right now don’t come from living in a “libertarian utopia” that’s clearly obvious. Instead we’ve become a sort of socialist lite (and catching up fast) version of the failing European social democracies. We’re headed down the very same track, just not on the rocket sled they’re on.
Another irony is even if we did change our ways and begin the dismantle this intrusive regulatory state and go back to our roots, it may be too late. Like it or not, our economic future is coupled with places like Europe, China and the like. Even with such moves here, the tipping point may have already been reached. Instead of dismantling all of this state apparatus the less painful way by gradually standing it down, it may just come crashing down under its own weight.
Politicians have been told for decades we can’t afford what they envisioned and built. They’ve been warned that the state was getting too large, expensive and intrusive and all they’ve done is make it larger, more expensive and more intrusive. But it appears the can has been kicked about as far down the road as it can be kicked. Now someone is going to have to actually pick it up and deal with it.
The question is who? The other question is do Americans have the fortitude and actual belief in the principles of freedom and liberty to make that happen?
Both questions, in my opinion, have less than positive answers … at least at this point in time.