Monday, December 1, 2008

Sacrifice and Political Power

President-elect Obama has told us many times that his agenda will require that everyone make sacrifices. But there is one group that will be exempt from this mandatory orgy of sacrifice-- the federal government.

A sacrifice is giving up one value for one that is valued less or not at all. A sacrifice is giving up a higher value for a lower value. It is not a sacrifice to delay gratification, such as eating at home rather than dining out in order to save for a vacation.

Political power ranks as a very high value for those in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. (There may be some rare exceptions, but they are rare.) Yet, the past few months, as well as Obama's ideology, clearly demonstrate that the federal government will seize more power over the economy and our lives. Those in the federal government will not be giving up a value, but attaining more what they desire-- political power.

If everyone must sacrifice, what sacrifices will be demanded of those in the federal government? If John and Jane Taxpayer must sacrifice, what sacrifices will be asked of Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid? Will they be asked to sacrifice some of their political power? I don't think so.

The latest Gallup poll (November 13-16) gave Congress an approval rating of 19% and a disapproval rating of 74%. In reviewing the results of 19 different polls going back to September 2005, the highest approval rating for Congress during that period was 44%. During 2008 the approval rating ranged from 13% to 28%. In short, during the past 5 years the vast majority of Americans have disapproved of the job done by Congress. In this were an election, it would be a landslide of immense proportions.

Despite this fact, Congress is poised to grab more power. Despite the fact that Congress has presided over the collapse of the housing market, plummeting stock prices, and record deficits, they are about to grab more power.

Now, if Congress had a record of competency this might make some kind of sense. There would be some connection to reality, some fact that could be used to justify such action. But all Congress has is a club, and a damn big one at that. Apparently, they will use that club to solve the current economic crisis. According to Austan Goolsbee, an economic advisor to Obama:

I don't know what the number is going to be, but it's going to be a big number. It has to be. The point is to, kind of, get people back on track and startle the thing into submission. [emphasis added]

I don't know about you, but if I were an economic crisis and someone threw a big number at me, I'm not really sure how I would respond. I really haven't thought about it before. But I guess that is why Obama will be the President, because he has access to guys who know about things like this. Why not just try some scary Halloween masks? That would sure be a lot cheaper, and it would probably be good for a few laughs too.

But alas, Mr. Goolsbee is serious. In typical Washington fashion, he believes that throwing enough money at a problem will solve it. However, it wants to do more than just solve the economic crisis. He wants to "startle the thing into submission", which I can only take to mean, he wants the economic crisis to beg for mercy and then sit in awe of Obama.

If a child made such a comment we might consider some counseling for him. At a minimum we would sit him down and explain that the economy is not an animate object, and consequently, cannot be startled or submissive. But Goolsbee is really not talking about the economy when he talks about submission.

The economy is nothing more than the combined activities of producers and consumers. The economy consists of the individual decisions and actions of millions of people, each pursuing their own goals and values. And it is the individual that Goolsbee and Obama want to startle into submission.

Government is an agency of force. Every action undertaken by government uses force (or the threat thereof). That force may used to take from some to give to others. That force may be used to prohibit certain actions (such as short-selling), or it may be used to compel certain actions (such as caps on executive pay). And that force is always ultimately aimed at individuals. It is the individual that Goolsbee, Obama, and Congress seek to control. It is the individual who is the target of each piece of legislation. It is the individual that Obama exhorts to sacrifice.

All individuals that is, except those in government. All individuals, except those with political power.

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