As has been the wont of the progressives, they can’t help but find a word not to corrupt. To my pleasant surprise, most recently Americans rightly called out Barack Obama for his contortion of one of these words: “investment.” Those who have repudiated this President’s socialist agenda were incensed that the President barely paid lip service to addressing our fiscal ills while proposing a host of pie in the sky programs, all centering on leading the world with the panacea of clean energy jobs. I could go into a long diatribe about the ridiculousness of emphasizing bullet trains and solar panels while our enemies grow increasingly strong and the true unemployment rate continues to hover north of 15%. But that’s for another time.
What I would like to emphasize is that so-called “investment” is not just a problem because it represents more spending. There is a fundamental problem with all government spending, and this is that it represents other people spending your money for you. Anecdotally, it is akin to the way a teenager drives a car he buys versus one bequeathed to him by his parents. Believe me, I know.
And like the reckless teen, the politician will rarely have the interest of those who entrust him with the fruits of labor at heart. In the case of the taxpayer, while you want to be happy, healthy and prosperous, all but the most principled politicians solely want to be re-elected. Re-election requires buying votes. When politicians “invest” in various projects, even if they are the savviest capitalists, caring for nothing more than seeing the best return on the taxpayer’s capital possible, their spending could at the very best represent a diversion of resources. Almost universally, the result is certain parties getting payoffs, and you and I getting plundered.
Government spending will always be suboptimal to the extent that while you labor for your income and choose to spend it out of your own volition and for the things that you, the individual value, directing businesses to provide the goods you want in the quantities you require, the government spends for the collective — amorphous masses of voters who will never see that the X months of the year that they must work to pay the government goes toward things like rebuilding the Gaza strip or paying the salary of the son of a politician in his cushy, unionized job.
The individual takes responsibility for what he spends because he earns it. The politician has no such responsibility, and his incentives in spending are often diametrically opposed to yours. But to the groups he spends on, the politician’s charitable investment is invaluable.
To the extent that we delegate to the government the power to spend money on our behalf, within the strictures of a Constitution properly understood, I propose a simple standard for evaluating the merit of public benevolence. Does federal spending benefit one group at the expense of another? If yes, then you cannot in good faith accept such a taking.
This principle may seem removed from reality today. Spending is out of all proportion to anything our forefathers could have imagined. Sure they had debt and currency crises, but they did not share a behemoth welfare state, nor did they ever shift such massive private burdens onto the back of the public. But I believe that there will come a time when this system will reset, and we will have a choice between a centrally planned banana republic and a capitalist system made up of responsible individuals who seek to produce, live in peace and maintain the most limited government possible because there will be no alternative. But if we can’t start to have these fundamental conversations now, how will we ever have a cogent message after the state implodes.
Most important, one must recognize that it is not just that government spending is economically harmful. Except in the narrow areas circumscribed in the Constitution, it is immoral. It represents your neighbor reaching into your pocket and taking money from you, with legitimization simply because a politician plays the middle man.
Perhaps we can all take solace in the fact that regardless of what happens during the next 10 or 20 years, there will truly be economic and social justice. Those who have driven us to this point will pay a price for their tyrannical will to dictate our lives, as their grand experiment fails as it has always and wherever it has been tried. So let us not fret. With knowledge that what has to happen will inevitably happen, let us stride ever more confidently and arm ourselves with truth because it will set us free.