by Robert E. Wright
Too often, lovers of liberty, this one included, respond to claims like “X is bad and it’s occurring more frequently so we need more government” with “X isn’t occurring or it is actually good from another perspective.” We need to remember to follow through by explaining that even if bad X occurs, government is probably the cause, not the cure. We got 99 problems, and as I explained to protestors in Charleston in summer 2020, the government directly causes or exacerbates all of them.
But let’s just consider what many progressives rank as two of our biggest problems, systemic racism and global climate change. (You might recall that WaPo considers them inextricably intertwined.) Instead of pointing out that people of all skin complexions still flock to this country and that the media exaggerates speculative climate models, I’ll stipulate that both exist and that both are bad (racism definitely is, but climate change might not be).
So how do we thwart this two-headed nuisance? How about striking at the root? That is reasonable, right? Make sure that we kill the entire weed so it won’t readily grow back?
What, then, is at the root of systemic racism and global climate change? Governments! If we defunded governments by half, both problems would fall off the radar, as would many other problems, from the morbidly obese national debt to runaway tuition and medical expenses.
Fact is, were it not for New Deal meddling in electricity development and high regulatory barriers for nuclear energy generation, America might already be at net zero carbon. The former effectively stopped the development of green distributed energy markets and technologies and the latter greatly slowed Gen IV fission reactors and fusion energy technologies, i.e., clean, safe, and cheap energy without any of the downsides of wind and solar. Thanks Uncle Sam!
And of course it is well established that Uncle Sam and other American governments are racist in effect, if not intent. Drug laws create a new Jim Crow system of segregation, municipal governments prey on the poor for fines and fees, unnecessary occupational licensing laws keep the disadvantaged out of a variety of good jobs, and Covid lockdowns and vaccine mandates disproportionately hurt people of color. Worst of all, perhaps, government financial regulations prevent members of some communities from engaging in the forms of self-help that created pathways that enabled members of earlier groups of hyphenated-Americans, including immigrants and religious minorities, to fully join what used to be called the American Dream.
I argued last year that those who want to defund the police are onto something, they just want to go too fast given that people in America’s urban centers haven’t self-policed for over a century. But they did before the Civil War and Americans still self-police in many rural areas, despite the popularity of Walt Longmire and Raylan Givens.
Self-policing requires strong Second Amendment protections, like Constitutional Carry, but no self-styled progressive wants “people of color” living in urban areas to be able to defend themselves. So only overworked cops and violent criminals carry guns, with predictable results.
America is a “democracy” so don’t Americans get the laws they want? Ha! Americans elect government officials kinda sorta but is there really a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledumber?
America’s political system has devolved to the point that voters regularly choose people who can’t keep their libidos in check, who invade distant nations based on lies and then lie some more about why America must keep troops there, who fuel massive booms then bail out the corporations that got rich during the bubble, who label major reform bills the opposite of what they do, and who upend decades of established tariff policies by starting a trade war with a major creditor and trading partner.
And now the Biden administration makes us pine for them all! One, hopefully, does not have to be a National Review conservative to concede its claim that most Biden economic policies do not make rational sense. Biden recently claimed that Americans will pay $x trillion so the policy doesn’t really cost anything. Really? From trickle down economics to Freakonomics to moronomics in one lifetime! (The saner claim that $x trillions won’t add to the national debt at least could be true, but isn’t.)
Although there is a good economic case for open immigration, the Biden administration hasn’t made it. I can’t imagine how its darker-skinned constituents feel about its open border policy. How does allowing millions of newcomers into the country help to achieve “equity” for those born in America? Isn’t the most likely outcome a political backlash and higher unemployment? Maybe conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson are right about the open border being a cynical ploy for votes, hence the ongoing destruction of the secret ballot and voter ID laws.
One can approach the issue of government culpability in America’s problems from the other way, too, by asking what good has government ever done? Is there a single good or service that it provides better than the private sector?
Education? Ha! Members of Congress are four times more likely to send their children to private schools than the average American family is for a reason.
Infrastructure? Nope! Private prevails.
Affordable housing? If you believe that, I have a (segregated) federal housing project to sell you. It will be cheap, but not inexpensive.
Redistributing income? Actually, insurers and nonprofits are much more efficient at directing funds to where they are most needed. Politicians often send resources to where they will return the most votes, not to where they will do the most good.
Military protection? Maybe, but only with privately produced weapons and other kit.
Wasting other people’s money? Ya got me there, but that is actually a bad, not a good.
Instead of asking “What can the government do to fix this problem?” Americans should ask “How did the government screw this up too, and how can we restore efficient market solutions?” The world will never be completely free of bigotry, bad weather, and 97 other problems but at least taxpayers can stop paying through the nose to make them worse.