All Commentary
Wednesday, January 1, 1992

Perspective: Legislative Deficits No Surprise

We can expect increasing instability in government as long as it pursues social goals. Social goals were never part of the original purpose for which government was created. That purpose was to protect life, liberty, and property. Nothing more.

Today we find the government a major threat to property rather than a protector. By seeking to accomplish social goals through taxation and economic manipulation, it is confronted with the task of matching costs with revenues. The costs of idealistic goals can be limitless or infinite, whale revenues (taxes) are finite. These utopian goals will always tend toward exceeding what is available in revenues.

Only the free market through the pricing system can balance supply with demand, and this it does peacefully.

Unlike the free market, the state, being an instrument of force, can only seek by force to balance its costs with revenues. This coercion creates discord between the state and the citizens. Eventually we witness the state in the act of impoverishing the very people it was sworn to protect.

Legislators and citizenry alike should reflect upon the wisdom displayed by the moral principles our forefathers relied upon when limiting government to protecting life, liberty, and property.

By this liberty, free American citizens in earlier days attained social goals that astounded the world. And they did it without deficits!

—Richard W. Holden

Avon,       Connecticut

When Pride Dies

I can remember when the fact that the state and federal government spent $14 million in Brown County in one year on welfare would have been a matter of deep shame, It certainly would not have been an occasion for joy and celebration.

Recently the regional administrator for the Texas Department of Human Resources, with great fanfare and attendant rhetoric, announced that just over $14 million had been showered upon the citizens of Brown County in 1990. And wherever you live, your county got a large amount, too—and if you didn’t read about it, maybe your paper was ashamed to print it. it came like manna from heaven—handed out by a benevolent and protective Robin Hood known as the State . . . .

We were once a proud people who would rather have starved than depend on the State. Pride might have helped save us—but pride has died.

—Bill Prince, writing in the July 12, 1991,

issue of The Heartland Advertiser, Bangs, Texas

Ancient Phone System

The information now coming in floods from the former Soviet Union continues to astonish. A Western consortium is currently at work modernizing the telephone system of Moscow. One of our Freeman contributors recently spoke with a member of the consortium, who told him that Moscow’s original telephone system was installed prior to 1906 by Swedish engineers working for the czarist government. When our contributor asked him what proportion of Moscow’s current telephone system dates back to before 1906, he replied, “At least 90 percent.” Communism’s failure to supply the most basic living standards to its populations has perhaps never been more apparent.

A Divided People

There is a common complaint today that Americans have lost their sense of community. Is it any wonder, when any group that could possibly call itself an underprivileged or unrepresented minority seeks the assistance of the government? Whether it be hyphenated Americans, or gays, single parents, teachers, women, the elderly, the handicapped, small business, unions, big business, consumers, veterans, criminals, or protectors of the yew tree, a growing number of groups are petitioning one or another agency of government for redress of some grievance, or for a larger or “more equitable” share of the national wealth. Today, virtually every social problem seeks a political solution, as those affected quite understandably turn to government for assistance, because the public has seen this as the ever-increasing function of government for the past 30 years.

But by nature political solutions involve the exercise of power over one group for the sake of another. This cannot be done without creating tension and emphasizing differences. And so the very differences that bring about the problems are perpetuated by the solutions, and politics becomes a series of power struggles between warring groups intent on seizing control over the purse strings.

The reality is that government funding is simply money taken from individuals in the form of taxes. There is only so much of it to go around. More and more people are demanding more and more benefits for their own interest groups, either in direct payments, low-interest loans, government services, import duties, regulations, state licensing, or other assistance and protection. There is no way to satisfy the demands of one group except at the expense of another. And, in order to respond, government must grow to meet the demand. This creates an additional drain on the nation’s wealth, for government is extraordinarily expensive.

As the demands increase, the supply of wealth diminishes, and budget deficits grow. Interest groups now compete fiercely for limited resources, and since the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the hue and cry is at a concert pitch. Government becomes the universal umpire, prone to corruption, and growing in size and power. Out of such a climate can come only division, an emphasis on differences, shrinking power of individuals, and government growth. Add to this the official philosophy of the ‘90s: political correctness, which breeds suspicion, encourages witch hunts, and in effect aims at nothing less than dosing the door to the free and open exchange of ideas.

Remove government, the middleman, from this scenario, and we will defuse the bomb about to explode. What would remain are the elements of a free market with its natural mechanisms of problem-solving through response to supply and demand.

—James E. Chesher

Santa Barbara City College