Tibor Machan teaches philosophy at Auburn University, Alabama. He recently edited Commerce and Morality for Rowman and Littlefield.
There was a special election in my Congressional district recently. Our Congressman had died, and several candidates were vying for his office.
I received a letter from one of them, greeting me as “Dr. Machan.” I surmised from this that someone on the candidate’s staff had found my name in the university phone book, and so knew that I taught there.
Most of the letter was pretty routine, promising hard work and claiming good roots in the community. One paragraph, however, caught my eye. In it, our candidate made the following promise:
There will be many occasions where the allocation of budgetary resources can be a major force in facilitating quality growth and development. [Your] University, for example, needs additional funding to achieve its potential for excellence. I envision a far greater role in federally-sponsored basic and applied research in a wide range of areas, many of which are untapped. My record of 14 years in [your] legislature is well-documented with support for higher education. I am particularly proud of sponsoring and providing leadership in the passage of the Eminent Scholars Bill . . . . I will be responsive to the personal needs of my constituents . . . .
Now this all sounds nice. We can send someone to Congress who will be responsive to my personal needs! In these days of runaway government spending, what we need is for one more politician to go to Washington and bring back a lot of loot for his constituents.
And people talk about the need to eliminate government waste! That is puny stuff. What is necessary is to eliminate the power of government to ladle out the kind of favors my aspiring Congressman offered. What we need are bills to limit government growth and spending, not people who make promises they can keep only by mortgaging the wealth of unborn generations or by spawning massive wealth redistribution as proof of public service.
What our country needs more than anything else is to cut back the power and influence of government, to revitalize the energies of the private sector, to rekindle the spirit of individual initiative. After all, isn’t this the message of all those socialist countries that are running away from central planning? Are we not learning that blind faith in the power of government to “facilitate” virtually everything from education to health care has led to worldwide bankruptcy?
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a candidate who is really concerned about this country’s overall solvency and credibility? One might be able to vote for someone like that and feel proud. I am afraid, however, that despite all the hue and cry about deficits and sacrifice, little is going to change with our present team of leaders.
The politicians seem to have paid off the few people who might have saved us from them—those teaching about the political system we live in. These politicians will continue to make promises, and most of our university professors will continue to be as interested as the next guy in government handouts. So these professors aren’t going to tell us that when we abandon the principles of limited government and free enterprise, eventually we will go belly up and reach true national disaster.