Column on Two Cheers for the Gridlock

Two Cheers for the Gridlock

Tibor R. Machan

        On one of those few occasions that I have managed to rub elbows
with a hero of mine, I caught Milton Friedman on a TV program endorsing
the gridlock in Washington during a recent administration–I believe it
was President Bill Clinton’s second term. One point he made was that
any gridlock in Washington or elsewhere is a good thing, given that the
belief that government can solve all kinds of problems if the
politicians only cooperate is poppycock.  

have been writing in favor of gridlocks for some time, at least as a
second best option to the one wherein the government is in the hands of
an administration that is fully committed to limited powers.  So I went
to my computer and send Dr. Friedman a message thanking him for
promoting the second best alternative of the gridlock in Washington.  I
was very please when he jokingly replied, saying “Great minds run in the
same gutter.”

       Although I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome on November 2, 2010,
that Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer, among others, would be headed back
to  the nation’s capitol to try to continue to shore up the government’s
powers, at least the election had the favorable result of producing a
gridlocked regime for a while.  I say, let them be bogged own in their
partisan bickering.  This may have the unintended consequence of making
life less regimented for most Americans, even free up our productive
energies somewhat.

        Yes, a free society is probably too much to hope for as the
outcome of a democratic election, especially when all around the
globe–Venezuela, Brazil, and other places–people keep investing
government with powers, guided by a blind faith in statism.  Even in the
countries that have experienced the most clear cut implications of
empowering government to run people’s lives, those formerly ruled by the
Soviet Union, a great many citizens keep clamoring for entitlements,
security, and benefits for which other people must be forced to work and
pay.  The governmental habit is far from extinguished even for those
who have been victimized by it.  And even if some of the victims came
away with the lesson well learned, their offspring are by no means the
wiser–hope for the impossible tends to reside in the hearts of too many
everywhere and prudence is not an inherited virtue.  So they give power
to monsters like Hugo Chavez and even worse people, some of them, like
Chavez, outright madmen.  And even in the country at times–thought less
so than before–labeled “leader of the free world,” committed statists
such as Nancy Pelosy, Harry Reid, Jerry Brown, et al., are entrusted
with powers no sane person should bestow on anyone apart from one’s
physician, perhaps, and only for a little while if at all.

So then it is perhaps understandable that some of us follow the lead of
the likes of the late Dr. Friedman and support a gridlock which, maybe
unintentionally but nonetheless consequentially, promises to tie the
politicians into knots of disputation, maneuvering, dealings, and so
forth that may make it possible for the rest of us to go about our
business.  Even those who are in the grips of the governmental habit
might benefit from this, indirectly, when they discover that government
inaction is actually quite a good thing.

Some years back the police went on strike in San Francisco and, lo and
behold, despite the prediction of alarmists that crime would run rampant
throughout the city, very little increase in crime actually occurred.
 Maybe even the one proper role of government, keeping at bay violent
criminals, doesn’t require huge force and expenditure.  

But it is always important to remember in these kinds of discussions
that over most of human history the state was revered, especially by the
elite, meaning of course that the elite felt that their power is needed
to run things properly.  This despite the fact that from time
immemorial it has also been widely known that this attitude mostly
promotes despotism and no good government at all.  

    So, then, I say: bring on the gridlock.  Therein lies our salvation for the time being.

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