Government’s not the solution to our problems; government is the problem

By Mischa Popoff on March 19, 2009

The late English historian A.J.P. Taylor elucidated in 1965 on the intrusion of the state into the private lives of its citizens.

“Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state. All this was changed by the impact of the Great War. The state established a hold over its citizens which though relaxed in peace time, was never to be removed and which the Second World War was again to increase. The history of the English people and the English State merged for the first time.”

State expansion has always fed off crisis. When war didn’t provide fodder, an inopportune economic crisis always substituted just fine.

The parallel drawn between Barack Obama and Franklin D. Roosevelt is now a hackneyed cliché. An editor might say that calling a cliché “hackneyed” is redundant, but the cross-generational comparison between these two Harvard legal whizzes graduated to full-blown hackneyed cliché when it was used as the theme for the cover of the November edition of Time Magazine. Obama is pictured dressed like FDR, smoking a cigarette through one of those ridiculous bakelite holders like the character Boris used in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.

The implication is that if FDR pulled America out of the Great Depression with his New Deal which expanded the state and exponentially increased federal spending, so too can Obama save the economy with a compatible approach. And the “thinking” has spread to Canada.

But guess what? FDR’s New Deal didn’t save the American economy in the dirty thirties. The Great Depression started with the stock market crash of 1929; FDR became president in 1933, but the American economy was still depressed when the United States entered WW2 eight long years later.

In fact, it was not until late in the second year of America’s involvement in the war, with hundreds of thousands of Americans being sent overseas and American industry running at full capacity building matériel for war, that FDR finally managed to push unemployment just below ten percent.

Apologists claim the New Deal just needed time to take effect, but that’s what’s referred to as a hackneyed rationale.

Yes a financial crisis is indeed upon us. But why exactly should we accept that if government pumps large sums of our own money into the economy it will halt a recession? We’re told there’s not a moment to lose; we’ve got to spend and spend now! But where’s the historical precedence to prove this might work?

In the depths of the Great Depression, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises observed that it was the late eighteenth-century development of the laws of economics that allowed the potential of all humankind to be realized. Economic laws are not perfect, but in von Mises’ words it was the broad realization by our forbearers that “there is something operative which power and force are unable to alter and to which they must adjust themselves in precisely the same way as they must take into account the laws of nature” that led to the modern, democratic age.

Leftists and environmentalists, some of whom are politicians, but most of whom are just professional activists, decry that Western civilization has come too far. But our indisputable success is the result of nothing more complicated than taking the economic rules of commonsense that we all apply to the running of our households, and applying them to the running of the state. History shows that once every individual is subject to these same, uniform economic laws, freedom is unleashed, and the state benefits from every citizen’s ambition. But we’re now being asked to give that up.

In the midst of the recession left behind by President Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan set the tone for a full recovery in his 1981 inaugural address: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”Non-conservatives dismiss these words as the ranting of a retired movie star. But unlike FDR’s plan, Reagan’s plan worked. The full recovery led to some of the most prosperous years Americans have ever known.

Marcus Cicero, the first-century Roman statesman was among the first Westerners to advance such a conservative approach. “The budget should be balanced,” he said, “the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled… lest Rome become bankrupt.”We’re now poised to barrel ahead blindly as FDR did when he brought National Socialism to the shores of North America. Have we learned nothing in the last two millennia?


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