Is Debt It?

Well, it’s now in the hands of a capable Super Committee. You know, the kind that leaps tall political issues with a resounding thud. Our political process worked, if by “work” you mean that it resulted in a solution absolutely everyone hates.

As a libertarian, one might fairly predict that I would be pessimistic about the debt ceiling deal. I am not so much pessimistic as I am disheartened. Anyone who believes that a Congress promising to cut spending “in the future” is on the up-and-up is deluded. Congress has no intention whatsoever of cutting spending. They never have and they never will as long as we put people in office who believe that government is a force for social good.

I often joke to audiences that libertarians have one simple belief. Anyone who wants to hold public office should be disqualified. Go ahead, laugh. Then reread headlines from the last month. Democrat or Republican, politicians want more government. It’s their job. The so-called Tea Party Freshmen may be an exception. We don’t know yet because the whole TP movement is brand new. Let us hope so.

Back to the point, however, which is that nothing significant was done in the debt deal. From a libertarian perspective, that is normally good. Government should be doing next to nothing. In the present case, however, there is a gargantuan problem. Decades of ill-advised promises to the future are now coming due and continuing our present course will end badly. We must do something to undo the doings of the dunderheads that did this to us.

The idea of a Super Committee is a tasteless joke. It makes a mockery of the American people and the democratic process. Congress punted and failed once again to address the fundamental structural problems with our government. We are headed over the falls and no one really wants to change anything.

So what will work? Some say nothing, that it is already mathematically impossible to pay off the debt. I am not fully convinced of that yet, but it is an argument worth investigating. If that is the case, a default is inevitable. It could be 20 or 30 years, but it will occur. If that sounds like a long time, think again. People my age will be in their retirement years.

I do believe there is a way out, but no one much is going to like my idea. We have to change our whole shared idea of the relationship between government and the individual. There are two aspects to this change. The first is recognizing that the great Liberal Experiment has failed miserably. The biggest impediment to change in this regard is the neurotic devotion on the part of liberals to a government-supervised social structure. Philanthropy must be privatized, completely, along with most other current government functions.

The second aspect is recognizing that corporate welfare is central economic planning writ small. No amount of dithering around with debt limits and budgets will change one fundamental fact: When politicians can play favorites with big businesses, they will. Every time they do so, genuine competition is squelched in favor of government-sponsored monopolies. We pick up the tab in the form of higher prices and higher taxes. The solution is the complete separation of economy and state. When the state only enforces voluntary contracts, businesses must earn their profits honestly and live with the consequences of their decisions. No taxpayer-funded subsidies, no taxpayer-funded bailouts.

The libertarian alternative is not a step backward, as both liberals and conservatives like to claim. It is a huge step forward. The poor will be better off, not worse. Industry will thrive, not die. People will not be at each other’s throats, but woven together in a fabric of honest mutual cooperation. No one pretends that in a libertarian society all will be well. Children will die, just as they do now. People will get sick, just as they do now. That guy down the street will still decorate his yard with pink flamingos and your teenagers will still make you crazy, just as they do now.

Yet for all this seeming resignation to the vagaries of existence, there will blossom a new hope. We will once again become cleanly and honestly interdependent. We will earn in proportion to what we contribute and give to those we deem worthy. We will unleash the vast resources of human creativity to provide for us and our fellows. We will create ways to heal the sick and feed the poor that do not depend on the Leviathan of big government. Free to pursue the good, we will go after it ourselves, rather than farming it out to politicians and bureaucrats.

When will this day come? Not soon. We have been brainwashed by Washington and numbed by our own complacency. We have allowed them to con us into paying taxes from which we will never see a genuine benefit. We allowed them to run up a debt that may bring us all down. The carnival barker took us and we will never get our money back. Best to chalk it up as a lesson learned and get back to business–the business of living like free humans rather than wards of the state.



About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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