Originally written for Shurts Accounting on November 27, 2012.
In 1980, after nearly a decade of double-digit inflation and continuing economic stagnation, Americans had had enough. By a resounding margin, they removed Jimmy Carter from the presidency and replaced him with Ronald Reagan. Thus began an almost unbroken economic ascent for the next 20 years.
In 1994, after a half century of Democratic malfeasance, the American people turned control of the House of Representatives over to the Republicans led by Newt Gingrich. As part of the on-going swing to the right begun by Reagan, the American economy zoomed for the next 6 years.
So why now, 32 years after Reagan began his presidency and 18 years after the Republicans took control of the House, has our economy been reduced to a smoldering ruin? Didn’t the Carter presidency and a half century of Democratic control of Congress teach us anything, and if it didn’t, why didn’t it?
“It is time to check and reverse the growth of government,” Ronald Reagan said. Reagan’s rhetoric was soaring and inspiring. For a short time, attempts were made to lessen taxes, roll back regulations and generally lessen the intrusiveness of government – all of which indeed helped the economy. But in the end, far from reversing or even stopping its growth, government grew larger under Reagan. And the entitlement state, instead of shrinking because of the increase in wealth due to the Reagan-inspired economic boom actually grew as well. How come?
“This is a genuine revolution. We’re going to rethink every element of the federal government. We’re going to close down several federal departments.” Thus spoke Newt Gingrich. No such rethinking or closing down of departments ever occurred. For all intents and purposes, nothing changed. Government most assuredly did NOT get smaller. Why?
For decades Conservatives and Republicans have filled the air with their promises of lesser taxes, fewer regulations and smaller government. Yet, whenever they were given the power to act on these promises, nothing ever happened. Government is larger than ever and growing still faster. With so many sincere defenders of limited government having so many electoral successes over the last three decades, why hasn’t even the smallest dent been made in this inexorable growth?
The answer lies in an inability in those ‘sincere defenders’ to understand that Capitalism and freedom can only be defended on principle, which because it is a principle means it is not to be violated under any circumstance. Thus when you say that a citizen’s money should not be taken to give to another on principle, you should not resume farm subsidies 2 years after stopping them and you should not create the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to provide medical care to children free of charge, which the 1996 Republican Congress did 2 years after coming to power under the aegis of the ‘Contract With America.’ These are two small examples in a century-long history of government expansion and intrusion into virtually all walks of American life. And the reason why this continues on and on and on is because no one in power will say that it is wrong. It is all wrong and it is all wrong on principle because a person’s life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and property are his by right and NOT to be violated for ANY reason.
Until such people come to power and make this case forcefully and without apology, any politician can say he is for limited government, freedom and Capitalism all he wants. It doesn’t mean a thing.