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The political value of adhering to principle
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, February 21, 2006

George Will points to the problem which separates political opportunists driven by careerism vs. those who adhere to principle vie to become our "leaders":
He believes that the establishment is proof of a conservative axiom: Any political group or institution that is not ideologically conservative will become, over time, liberal. That is so because, in the absence of a principled adherence to limited government, careerism — the political idea of the unthoughtful — will cause incumbents to use public spending to purchase job security.
Makes it pretty easy to identify which is which, doesn't it? And you can count on someone denouncing those those who are careerists everyday as well as voicing support for the principled among our leaders. Like me, for instance.

However if you carefully study the electorate, you'll find that there are a good number, if not a majority of voters who aren't at all as uncomfortable with being provided for by the government than they might claim to be. And while many will decry foolish and wasteful spending in general, they don't, so much, if they stand to benefit from it. As careerists learn, few if any politicians are turned out of office for "bringing home the bacon". Thus the fight over the efficacy of earmarks even when the evidence points to extensive and outright fraud, abuse and waste. If there principle of limited government were really something of value, there'd be no fight.

Couple that with the fact that fewer and fewer are actually contributing to the pot of money exacted each year through income taxes and you can see why bread and circuses, as well as those who provide them, remain popular. According to the National Tax Foundation, 44% of adult Americans in 2004, that's 58 million households, had no income tax liability. And it wasn't because they were rich and found numerouls loopholes. Quite the contrary. It was because the came under the arbitrary income bar over which people must pay.

Is it any wonder why hand-outs and spending programs, not to mention pork, remain so popular?

When politicians see no value in adhering to the principle of limited government (i.e. no one rewards them for doing so, and in fact, they risk losing their jobs), but they do see value in public spending in order to keep their jobs, it should come as no surprise that they do what they find is the best value for them.

As long as a good number of Americans find a benefit in government spending nothing will change, and it will continue to get worse. At present there is no value to politicians to adhere to the principle of limited government, so we shouldn't be particularly surprised when they don't.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

"According to the National Tax Foundation, 44% of adult Americans in 2004, that’s 58 million households, had no income tax liability."

Hold on. Income tax is by no means the only federal tax. Most of those 44% do hold jobs and do pay social security and medicare taxes, as do their employers. That adds up to about 15% of total compensation off the first $90K or so.

Currently social security is running a surplus so the extra cash goes into the US Treasury, creating, in effect, a flat rate income tax for those earning under $90k.

There are other federal taxes analogous to social security, like the nuclear waste tax on electricity generated from nuclear reactors. This one is taking in more than is being spent on Yucca Mountain, yielding cash into the Treasury.

Granted, too many in government are solely focused on having their rice bowl continually filled. Still, there are some services that I only want government to provide - roads and security are only two.

Guess we citizens just have to keep on our elected officials and vote’em out when they don’t deliver. It’s work but it’s gotta be done.
Written By: Whitehall
URL: http://
Hold on. Income tax is by no means the only federal tax.
No one is claiming it is. In the context of the article, it shows why some would be less interested in seeing the redistribution afforded by this tax changed. They risk nothing in that regard. So they have no interest in seeing goodies paid for through those collections stopped, do they? The fact that it is some one else paying for it and their elected official is getting enough of it to benefit them is just fine with most of them. So there is certainly no impetus from that group to see the principle "limited government" actually acted upon.

In regard to SS and Medicare, they at least get an eventual return don’t they? So it’s not like it’s a total loss to them.
Written By: McQ
Hence the structural instability of modern conservativism. When one promises not to spend, rather than to spend wisely, mayhem is the result.
Written By: jpe
URL: http://
I think you are extending the process too far by including the public in the loop.

It seems that congressmen are re-elected on the basis of who has the most presence and financial backing. Having a congressman in your circle of friends is a gauranteed way of making money, and so the congressman is rewarded directly through campaign donations and indirectly through favors. Donors are kept happy through pork, congressmen (and extended family) are kept happy through donors. This operates as a closed loop with the only people benefitting being congressmen and their close friends.

The non-tax-paying public are out of the loop and just vote on the basis of TV time (paid for by donors) and name recognition. The non-tax-paying public aren’t getting enough of a deal to want to keep the whole thing going on personal merit (the merit of remaining TOO POOR to pay tax).
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
"In regard to SS and Medicare, they at least get an eventual return don’t they? So it’s not like it’s a total loss to them."

I cannot believe you said that McQ! You are joking, right?
Written By: EdMcGon
I cannot believe you said that McQ! You are joking, right?
I didn’t say it was a good one, Ed. I’m commenting more on a state of mind than the real payback by these programs.
Written By: McQ
McQ, that’s a better explanation.

I always find it amazing the amount of public support SS and Medicare get when they are funded by the most regressive tax in the country.
Written By: EdMcGon

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