Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We Need a Religion of Limited Government

Young Voices Associate Cathy Reisenwitz has taken a look at the new ideas in YGNetwork's "Room to Grow" proposals, and wonders what's the point.  Forget the "new" ideas.  How about some good "old" ideas?
Here’s a old/new idea: get government out of the way. cut off the spigot. end the subsidies. cut the regulations. help the middle class by allowing the market to work for them.
Cathy quotes Cato scholar Scott Lincicome:
“To advocate new in-kind or monetary transfers (tax credits, wage subsidies or whatever) to the poor and middle class without also fixing the policies that inflate prices and hinder consumption won’t actually permit these Americans to improve their and their families’ lives,” Lincicome writes. “Put simply: who cares if you have a few extra dollars per week from the government if the cost of many highly-regulated and subsidized necessities keeps outpacing any such increase?”
Who cares?  Ordinary people care about their own personal subsidy, their own personal "few extra dollars per week." It's true that "Bankers, lenders, schools, realtors are all 'helped' tremendously by artificially high prices, demand boosts, and regulatory capture."  And it's true that ordinary people get nickels and dimes compared to the C-spots that the big boys get from Big Government.  But ordinary people are attached to their nickel-and-dime subsidies.  Low-paid educated young people say Yea! when Pune-born Brahmin Kshama Sawant calls for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle, even though it hurts minority youth and pushes marginal employers off the books.  Middle-income people rely on and support the mortgage interest deduction even though the rich benefit far more.

The trouble is that if you actually come out and propose to cut all the subsidies and transfers you won't get elected dogcatcher.  That's because politics has always been and always will be about looting and pillaging.  Join my free company, the young aristocrat used to say, and you'll get your share of the loot.  Vote for me, the modern politician says, and I'll make those greedy employers pay you more out of their profits.  The Tea Party hates bailouts for big banks, but don't start talking about reforming Social Security and Medicare.

The point about limited government is precisely that it proposes to limit the looting and pillaging.  It says that if everyone backs off their demands for loot we will all be better off in the long run.  But in the long run we are all dead.

In The Faith Instinct Nicholas Wade gets to the heart of the matter.  How do humans control the freeloader and the freebooter, the looter and the pillager?  With religion.  It is religion that says "thou shalt not steal" and "thou shalt not covet."  And religion usually throws in a God that knows what you are doing even if you hide your looting from the people in your community.  God will judge you for your transgressions on the Day of Judgment, and don't you forget it.

The problem is that left-wing politics from Marx to Pelosi says that it's OK to loot and pillage, as long as you are a member of a traditionally marginalized minority.  Hey, it's not just OK, it's the epitome of fairness and justice!  Lefties have made a religion out of free-loading.  As the pundit says: this will not end well.

Obviously, it's not going to be easy to turn things around.  The point about religion, including today's left-wing sects, is that it is faith; you believe in spite of setbacks and defeats, and that certainly applies to our liberal friends.  We won't turn things around with a book or two, or even a rational discussion of the zero-sum game of subsidies and carve-outs.

What it will take is a new religion, one that will inspire millions of people with the idea of limited government without subsidies, and fill their hearts with a new idea of the good.  This will not be a political movement, but a moral and cultural movement that redefines the idea of the good.  It will have to inspire ordinary people to reject the blandishments of politicians and activists, because to the new believers such offers of free stuff are simply wrong, and not just wrong but offensively wrong.

Personally, I don't doubt that the Republicans emerging in the race for President in 2016 know what needs to be done: cut spending, subsidies, carve-outs, reform entitlements, reform education away from the "blob" status quo.  But a politician has to practice the art of the possible, and conduct the charm offensive that gets him to 51% of the vote.  And that, as a famous US politician once demonstrated, means leaning heavily on vague promises of Hope and Change, and blurring the actual details of the Change to come.

I'm with you Cathy Reisenwitz.  But I also know that to get where you want to go will take a long journey, and a transformation in the hearts of millions of Americans.

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