The Case for Austerity
Andrew P. Napolitano
by Andrew P. Napolitano: The
Government as Lawbreaker, Again
Do you remember
this summer's debt debate debacle? It ended with the supercommittee,
which ended in failure, which resulted in no cuts in government
spending. Do you remember the summer before that, when tea party
protesters came out in full force against Obamacare and members
of Congress who were contemplating supporting it? Do you remember
when the tea party movement made the Republicans the majority in
the House and replaced a few prominent liberal Republicans in the
Senate with small-government conservatives?
Where was all
the raucous protest when those who were elected to Congress in 2010
on the promise of reining in spending so spectacularly and clearly
failed to do it?
It seems everybody
wants something for nothing and everybody wants something from the
government. Frankly, this is why Ron Paul has never been the flavor
of the week. He is the only serious presidential candidate who is
actually advocating real austerity, real spending cuts, a real shrinking
and Mitt Romney don't want to shrink government. They love government.
They just want to manage it better. The problem with that approach
is that government by its very design is always mismanaged. The
centralization of decision-making amplifies the effects of poor
decisions while disincentivizing prudent ones.
Unlike an individual
or a well-run corporation, government is not motivated by how efficient
it can be, but rather by how lucrative it can be for those associated
with it, and how those who run the government can stay in power.
Someone who was philosophically opposed to government domination
of the housing market wouldn't perpetuate it by taking one red penny
of taxpayer money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, like the former
Speaker did, whether he calls himself a historian or a lobbyist.
Someone philosophically opposed to government domination of the
health care market would never offer up government as the solution
to the problem of the uninsured, like the former governor of Massachusetts
did, since the problem of the uninsured was created by government's
involvement in the health care market in the first place.
government does not need an efficient manager. That's a pipe dream
based on the noble but flawed premise that government can be made
to operate as a business. It cannot. Business is subject to the
forces of free choice, supply and demand, and competition. Can you
imagine government subjecting itself to the forces of competition?
Can you imagine government permitting us to ignore it?
biggest sacred cow is the Pentagon. The mere thought of reductions
in the growth of defense spending has the Washington careerists
screaming bloody murder. Yet military expert after military expert,
not connected to the Pentagon and not employed in the defense industry,
has told us that austerity will force the government to do what
Congress lacks the political courage to do. Stated differently,
we will keep spending on bases we don't need, on planes that sit
unused in hangars and on military hardware stored all over the world,
and not for any national security interest, but simply because a
congressman earmarked it – unless we get serious about our future.
A dollar of
military spending is not a dollar of military strength, but it is
a dollar into the coffers of those who contribute to congressional
campaigns. Which is the greater threat to our national security,
an impoverished gaggle of Third World revolutionaries 10,000 miles
away, or our national debt? The answer is obvious.
is not a jobs program, and government is not your caretaker. Government
is an arrangement made by free individuals to protect their rights
and their property. It doesn't take $3.6 trillion a year to do that
effectively in America today. I doubt it takes a trillion. We must
swallow the bitter pill of austerity now, on our own terms, while
we are still the undisputed leader of the free world and while we
still have a Constitution, so that we can restore our prosperity
in a way consistent with personal liberty.
It is a far
better option than waiting for the bitter pill of austerity to be
forced upon us when our country has become a shell of the proud
and prosperous free nation it once was. Our cousins in Europe are
learning that the hard way, even as we marvel at their sudden but
with the author's permission.
December 29, 2011
Andrew P. Napolitano
[send him mail],
a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior
judicial analyst at the Fox News Channel, and the host of “FreedomWatch”
on the Fox Business Network. His latest book is It
is Dangerous to be Right When the Government is Wrong: The Case for
© 2011 Andrew P. Napolitano
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