Several weeks ago in an opinion article the Democratic Party was criticized for not being liberal enough. They were accused of having “sold out to the Right” and empowering the conservative agenda. From the liberal party, which brought us “big dreams,” the welfare state, the Great Society and the United Nations, we are now given “tax credits” and “baby-step solutions” for the nation’s social and environmental problems.
The author recommends, to seek redress for such indolence, that the liberal party expand the size of government and its role in the lives of American citizens. It should make “bold social changes” because we can “afford to” with today’s “unparalleled prosperity.” In essence, Americans should abandon the individualist’s pursuits of prosperity, and seek collectivism founded on the tenets of the welfare state as prescribed by the New Deal. To this I cry foul.
The economic prosperity of the United States within the past decade is in part a result of diminishing New Deal legislation that has clogged American financial institutions during the past seventy years. New Deal legislation was installed to provide a safety net against bank failures or undue concentrations of economic power. However, this has in turn prevented corporations, state and local government enterprises and other borrowers from realizing the cost, efficiency and other benefits that would result from greater competition among providers of financial services.
Thus Depression era legislation, like the Glass-Steagall Act (1933) that prevented banks from investing in the economy, which has been slow to be removed by the government, has remained at the expense of market forces, inhibiting productivity and growth. The prosperity that followed the government deregulation of both the Reagan and Clinton administrations is a repudiation of government economic intervention.
If “the Democrats have sold out to the right” it is because William Jefferson Clinton adopted the conservative agenda to remain a viable political candidate, ensuring that his party still had a hand in national politics. Thus it seems the American people are returning to the classical doctrine asserted by Williams F. Buckley Jr., that “the optimum adjustment – private property, production for profit and by private ownership, and regulation by a free competitive economy – bring not only maximum prosperity, but also maximum freedom.”
Furthermore, the expansion of government and its power is a dangerous act. More government means higher taxes, inefficiency, and less individual freedom. Government is a necessary evil and should be limited. Liberty depends upon it. By empowering the government we weaken our character. It displaces accountability and allows personal and moral responsibility to slip into oblivion. As John Chamberlain stated: “[the welfare state] is not only an impracticability but an insult to the average human being’s need and capacity for self-reliance.”
If poverty increases compassionate legislation is demanded to provide for those affected. If our children are shooting each other we demand gun legislation to remove guns from the hands of citizens. Government legislation is not a solution. It is a topical remedy that inhibits liberty, fosters dependency, and discourages human progress.
The individual and the private sector are where answers and accountability should be found. I borrow this view from Barry Goldwater who believed that “the progress of mankind is measured in the acts of man-to-man charity and person-to-person justice performed on an individual basis, motivated by the desire of the free individual to serve…and love his fellow man.” Direct, personal, individual responsibility and accountability to ourselves and to other humans will cause us to strive for something greater than the mediocrity of a socialized system. Competition and education produce results. Ambiguous bureaucratic guidelines that need enforcement do not.
As youthful college students we should be optimistic and confident that we will some day change the world and solve all of its problems. As students of life we must remain grounded in the reality that government planning will not affect positive change, but will only destroy our liberty.