As the government embarks on its various and numerous interventions into our economy it would do us well to reflect a bit on the direction those interventions may take us. The free market system that we have followed for lo these many years has served us very well. By any measure of economic activity or national wealth we have prospered greatly since the War. We have had only a few interruptions along the way and mostly the graph has been on the uptick for us. The worst performing years were the ones when the Government had the most direct hand in our economic functions and systems. Notably that was during the ’70’s when we had stagflation and two oil embargos and wage price controls and rampant inflation and huge expansions of the entitlement programs. That staggering economy and the ennui in the public were the leading casuses of the Reagan win in 1980. He promised less Government. It had run things for quite some time and the results were miserable to say the least.
Our economy is like a great ship at sea. It is slow to turn but once turned the inertia and weight drives it in a new direction that can’t be changed easily or quickly. I do worry about the new direction we are charting now and what port of call it will take us to. It might not be where it wanted to go after all. I know we want out of the immediate mess we are in and we are probably the most impatient people in the world. These quick fixes were are coming up with now are huge and will have profound and fundamental effects on our economy and lives for years to come. Any time you are making such changes you should do them slowly and carefully. I love the market going up as much as anyone, believe me, but I worry about the long term consequences to my children. Mr. Obama was quoted as saying to the plumber famously this week that he just wants to make things fair and equal out the wealth. What I hate about that as policy is that you have the Government deciding what is “fair” and how to go about spreading the wealth around. I much prefer that the playing field be even and fair and then let the spreading process work itself out by all those choices we each make for good or ill. Our own individual success or failure being dependent upon our worth, merit and willingness to work and sacrifice for a better future. I don’t want the Government to ever be in the role of deciding what is fair in terms on ownership or income production. I mean I think it is ridiculous that some rock star makes $20 million a year. But if we believe in freedom, and I do, then I think it is ok if folks want to spend their hard earned money watching a concert. But will the Government continue to allow that? I mean is that fair? Why allow someone with no Phd or entrepenuerial skill to make that kind of money? It is a slippery slope once we allow the Government to spread the wealth around because we are giving the Government power to decide who has too much and who has too little. I can’t think of anyone less qualified to make those choices. No one ever confuses the Government with Solomon. Success and failure, rights and responsibilities are the bedrock of our American values. We should be treated like grown ups by the Government not coddled like kids in the nursery.
Remember if you turn the heading on that huge ship just a couple of degrees it wouldn’t even be noticeable to the naked eye from the bridge, but hold that course for only a couple of days and you will be off course by hundreds of miles from where you wanted to go. We do indeed need a steady hand on the tiller now more than ever.
Andrew Jackson fought with the banks of his day. He was distrustful and disdainful of them. He won the short term battle with his populist approach and by demonizing them. But his victory against the banks in fact impeded our economic progress for quite some time. Political rhertoric when put into action by do gooders has consequences. Reasonable and sensible minds are our best protection for the future.