My “I told you so world”

My “I told you so world.”

Tibor R. Machan

So all of us who have long concluded that big government–which is to say, government with wide, nearly unlimited scope of power over the population it is supposed to serve–is a menace, no better than a gang of embezzlers and extortionists, can shout out “I told you so.” From the time of the American Revolution it should have been crystal clear that trying to solve the problems of a society with what government has to offer, namely, brute force (more or less subtly applied) is a horribly bad idea. Yes, it was that even before but by then plenty of major interlocutors in political discourse knew it well. Sadly, the governmental habit was by then so ingrained in most populations around the globe that getting rid of the habit became nearly impossible.

My own special area of concern has been government regulation, that insidious practice of meddling with people’s lives on innumerable fronts, and I have been watching just how addicted some leaders and public philosophers are to the idea. So I read such publications as The Economist, Barron’s, Bloomberg Businessweek and the like almost religiously, perhaps because I am hoping against hope that the message that government regulations are nasty as all get out will in time sink in.

The most recent issue of The Economist has a special report on world banking and what jumped out at me when I finished reading it was the naivete of the final paragraph of the report: “Paradoxically, stricter regulation intended to tame banks that were thought too big to fail is leading to the creation of even bigger and more systemically important institutions.” (May 11, 2013, p. 18). The futility of trying to fix economic problems with government regulation has been pointed out long ago–I learned it back in the mid 1960s from University of Chicago economics genius, Sam Peltzman–just as has been the futility of big government intervention itself, but even the editors of the normally sensible magazine, The Economist can pen sentences like the one above, as if they were making some sort of novel observation! They should remember a famous quip attributed to Albert Einstein, namely, “Insanity [is] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results..”

Guided by the idiocy of the likes of Paul Krugman, thousands who chime in on the topic still believe that using the government to fix things is a worthy notion. The institution may have some merit for purposes of guarding our basic rights, as Jefferson and the other signers thought, but beyond this there just is no excuse for trusting it with any tasks. (When I make mention of this to some liberal friends I often receive a list of state achievements such as the Hoover Dam, the TVA, etc. that allegedly would not get done if government were de-authorized; but all that commits the fallacy of the false alternative: we either have government intervention or nothing. How about developing non-government solutions and institutions to address the problems?)

We could extend this discussion, of course, to all the current fiascoes, with the IRS and the Department of State, etc., where the classical liberal teachings have gone unheeded. But I am sure readers can reach those conclusions on their own, at least here.

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