Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Not-so-great Political Debate

Have you noticed that on practically EVERY campaign issue between Republicans and Democrats, there is no longer a question of WHETHER government intervention is needed. It is now only a question of how much government intervention.

Even when politicians use the buzz words "free market", it is usually followed up with some government program. Take John McCain's global warming solution. He says we need a free market solution in one breath, while in the very next breath he calls for a "cap and trade" carbon emissions system. And don't even ask about Barack Obama's solution, which offers just about every environmental government program imaginable, short of having "carbon emissions police" carrying CO2 detection devices, breaking into private homes in the middle of the night (although check back next week. Obama might change his mind).

Consider taxes. Do we need an income tax system where we have to report to the government every detail of how we, as individuals, make money? Do we need tax breaks for every special interest lobbyist in D.C.? No one in either party asks whether we should eliminate the income tax for an alternative form of revenue collection (i.e. the FairTax). No one in either party talks about eliminating corporate taxes, even though it would revive the U.S. manufacturing sector. McCain's idea to cut the corporate rate from 35% to 25% is a nice start, but that should be the argument from the Left, not the Right.

Look at healthcare. We got this problem when the government gave companies tax breaks for providing health insurance to employees. Now we have a large segment of the population which expects someone else to pay for their healthcare costs. But nobody asks if we should completely remove government's role from the healthcare issue.

Of course, we cannot forget high gas prices. Nearly every aspect of the high prices can be traced to government actions:
1. Gas taxes which account for more government revenue than oil companies make net profits from the sale of gas.
2. The devaluation of the dollar, which leads to higher prices when we buy gas from overseas.
3. The government's refusal to allow drilling for oil in places like Alaska and off the coasts of Florida and California.
4. The government's support of the biofuel industry (which has also led to higher food prices). Unfortunately, oil companies have no incentive to build new refineries in the U.S. when they see the government supporting an industry which could take a large chunk of their market share in the near future. Why build a refinery which will take 20+ years to see a profit when you may not need it in 20 years? In addition, our insufficient refinery capacity for our oil consumption forces the oil companies to order oil from overseas refineries (also adding to our cost).
5. Whether you agree or disagree, environmental regulations add to the cost. Everything from drilling for oil to refining oil has environmental regulations on it. These costs are all passed along to the consumer.

Aside from numbers 1 and 3 above, no one asks about the other three government interventions. And the taxes are only mentioned in McCain's absurd "summer gas tax holiday" (why not a year-round gas tax holiday?).

This is NOT to suggest getting government out of these issues is the only way, or even a good way. Rather, it begs the question of WHY the possibility is NOT even part of the political debate. Why would politicians ignore it? Unfortunately, this is a question that answers itself. Politicians from both parties can see that their own power rests in the expansion of government. The more government expands, the more power they have over the people.

Even people who think we need more government (i.e. liberals and socialists) would look at the period earlier this decade when the Republicans controlled the White House and the Congress in disgust. But they would happily give the Democrats that kind of control, even though we could expect the same levels of unchecked corruption?

The great irony is that socialism was descended from a political theory, Marxism, which was born from a healthy distrust of aristocratic European government's abuses of power. The even greater irony is that the anti-establishment leftists of the 1960's have become the modern day Democrats who LIKE the idea of more government.

"That government is best which governs not at all" - Henry David Thoreau

How did we go from a society with a healthy disrespect for government power, as exemplified by millenia of monarchical abuse of power, to one where we happily hand over the keys to our lives to government, without even asking "why?"


Anonymous said...

The FairTax would cure so many problems most people's heads would spin. It will take a statesman to champion it. I'm afraid statesmen are in very short supply. Also the ignorance and apathy about tax reform of and by the general public is astounding.

EdMcGon said...


Gondis said...

Ed, After two weeks away, I caught up with your blog today and was impressed with the quality of the thought by almost all involved. A few of my thoughts:
It is a sign of mental laziness to call someone an "IDIOT" instead of refuting his/her argument.
As Thomas Sowell points out in "The Vision of the Anointed," so called liberals assume a position of moral superiority to disparage all opposing arguments.
Our current crop of liberals refuses to admit that the present form of Social Security was not what was originally legislated or intended. The idea of retirement "insurance" is still valid. But that is NOT what we have. Corrupt populists and demagogues changed the system several times since original passage. We need term limits of short duration.
Taxes have never been popular. Medieval "taxes" (the amount you gave the "landowner") were often 100% with death the result of objection. Without term limits we have an oligarchy of professional, lifetime politicians, who are lawyers, slowly amassing all the power. What has happened because of the environmental restrictions passed by congress. No one dares to question the desire to protect the environment even when the result is grossly unintended results. Facts are of no value if the question is parsed in terms of morality. We must get out of the "morality" business and into practicality.
Keep on stirring up useful debate.

EdMcGon said...

I couldn't have said it better Gondis. And thanks for the compliment. ;)