Free Markets, Free People


Hey Children, What’s That Sound …

Nope, not another post about the kiddie speech. Instead the title is from an old protest song from the ’60s (by Buffalo Springfield I believe). The sound is the sound of real, honest to goodness change being driven by government excess – not the veneer of change pushed by a certain candidate in the last election.

Daniel Henninger writes about it today in the WSJ. He sees it happening everywhere (he uses Japan as an example) and he believes it all pretty much boils down to this:

No matter the ideological cast of these governments, they all hold in common one policy: the inexorable upward march of national indebtedness. It has arrived at the edge of the cliff.

It is the point the liberal left in this country still doesn’t understand. The looters have finally been noticed by looted and the looted aren’t at all happy.

That’s it. That’s the problem. And that’s why there’s so much unrest.

As measured by the OECD, the growth in gross debt as a percentage of GDP since the dawn of the new century is stunning. The data isn’t exactly comparable across individual countries, but the trend line is unmistakable.

In the U.S., debt as a percentage of GDP rose to 87% in 2009 from 55% in 2000. In the U.K., to 75% from 45%; Germany, to 78% from 60%; France, 86% from 66%. There are exceptions to this trend, such as Canada, New Zealand and notably Australia, whose debt has fallen to 16% of GDP from 25%. But for all the countries in the OECD’s basket the claim of indebtedness on GDP grew to 92% from 69% the past nine years.

In short, the lumpen electorate works, and the lumpen bureaucratariat spends. They get away with it because they have perfected the illusion that no human hand causes these commitments. The payroll tax just happens. Entitlements are “off-budget,” presumably in the hands of God. This is government without the responsibility of governance.

Unable to identify who or what has put them in hock to the horizon, national electorates are attempting accountability by voting whole parties out of power.

That, among other reasons, is why the Republicans are out of power. And, if the Democrats continue down the path they’ve charted, is why the Republicans may find themselves back it power. And it wouldn’t at all surprise me, given the gawd-awful track record of the Republicans, that they too will misinterpret their reinstatement and be gone again in 2 years.

It is about the size, cost and intrusiveness of government, stupid!

The “lumpen electorate” has finally had enough. They want to keep what they earn. They want less government. But that’s an anathema to politicians who have built whole lives and careers on providing more government. It’s like an addiction – they can’t stop what they’re doing or how they’re doing it.

And, unfortunately, even though the masses seem unhappy with the size and cost of government, they too are addicted to a certain level of government. They too have an addiction to break.

The question, of course, as far as libertarians are concerned, is how these two addictions can be addressed and overcome so that government’s size and cost can be scaled back to a proper and legitimate size? And where are the leaders to do this?

Until they emerge – and there is nothing to say they will – this cycle of unrest which sees the swapping out of political parties will continue. But you have to believe that at some point, the disenchantment with the current political regime (and both parties make up that regime) will come to a flash point. What that flash point will entail – the range of possibilities is vast – is anyone’s guess.

When it is reached, politics and government as we know it now, will change forever. I cautiously believe we’re moving in that direction. When and where are anyone’s to guess, but I’m beginning to believe we’ve moved beyond “if” and have a “when” in our future. Or at least I hope so – because it seems obvious that we need some very drastic changes in direction.

What we’ve got to work toward is a change that emphasizes freedom and enhances liberty. And that isn’t by any means the only possibility such change would bring.

The old Chinese curse seems to be in full bloom right now – “May you live in interesting times”. I can’t think of times, during my life, that have been any more interesting.

~McQ

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7 Responses to Hey Children, What’s That Sound …

  • In short, the lumpen electorate works, and the lumpen bureaucratariat spends. They get away with it because they have perfected the illusion that no human hand causes these commitments. The payroll tax just happens. Entitlements are “off-budget,” presumably in the hands of God. This is government without the responsibility of governance.

    Yes and no. There is no question but that costs are hidden from – more correctly, ignored by – the lumpen electorate, but let’s not forget that all these programs that are driving us over the economic cliff were DEMANDED by that same lumpen electorate. The bureaucrats merely delivered what was demanded of them.

    Consider the current debate over health care takeover. We have a huge national debt. We routinely run huge budget deficits that add to it. Only the most brain-dead among us is unaware of this, if for no other reason than they are usually hot campaign issues every election cycle. Yet, the health care plan (i.e. more government spending) hasn’t been rejected out of hand: we’re merely dickering over how much we’re willing to spend.

    Politicians get elected on the basis of promises for MORE spending. Nobody seriously complains about this. Oh, sure: people may gripe about a specific program, but it’s generally because they think that the money would be better spent on something else.

    Blaming “bureaucrats” and politicians for the increase in debt around the world is rather like blaming the builder when you suddenly find you can’t afford the house you told him to build: he was only doing what YOU wanted in the first place.

    Unless and until people get past the idea that they are entitled to other people’s money, we are going to continue down this path.

    TANSTAAFL.

  • “It is the point the liberal left in this country still doesn’t understand. The looters have finally been noticed by looted and the looted aren’t at all happy”

    Some of the biggest complainers about ‘looting’ are annually persistent looters themselves. So there’s some indignation going around out there that is so hypocritical it isn’t funny. Not that complaints aren’t warranted. But it seems as if some people are really more concerned about having to make room at the pig trough for other and not the concept of looting in itself.

    • Like the Medicare seniors! They don’t want their looting upset.

      But right now, I’m glad they are on our side.

  • Make me dictator for one year and I will clear out this mess.

  • n this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden.

    This is the winning strategy for 2010 and 2012.

  • The sad thing is that when Republicans are in charge the looting just slows down slightly. Of course the billions wasted on agricultural subsidies and ethanol is a lot less alarming than all the outright nationalization of industries that the current regime has accomplished. But it still sucks.

  • Fair points, but there is a dilemma. No government means those who are powerful(wealthy, controlling business and financial sectors) get to structure the game and always this creates structural limits on the poor and the lower classes. Too much government, and you get bureaucratic tyranny. The sad thing is, ideologues go to one side or the other, and each side not only has its own problems, but creates a dynamic which supports a move to the other side. In reality we need a balance, to expand freedom and liberty in a way that effectively gives opportunity to those who lack power.