Wednesday, October 29, 2008

FDR the Second

Barack Obama has recently cozied up to several of FDR's policies as prescriptions for curing what ails us.

It's safe to assume that Obama is probably saying what he actually believes when that will help his campaign. And, since FDR is generally (though with zero justification) thought to have been a great President, espousing his ideas is safe for Obama.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, those policies were a disaster 70 years ago. They'll be a disaster if they're implemented now. Despite common accolades like "bold, persistent experimentation" and "cured the Depression," the fact is that FDR's approach not only lengthened and deepened the Depression, it was immoral from the outset.

Raising taxes on those in upper income brackets in the teeth of an economic downturn isn't just impractical, it's wrong. Taking from the 'rich' to give to the not-so-rich is wrong. The money belongs to those individuals, not to the State to distribute according to the warped value system of a chameleon who succeeds in fooling a plurality of voters in swing states.

It's no accident, of course, that the policy also happens not to lead to prosperity, even for the not-so-rich. It's Economics 99 (the idea doesn't even qualify as Econ 101) that if you reduce the amount of capital available for investment, fewer goods and services will get created and unemployment will rise. That doesn't help anybody, least of all the middle class.

"Spreading the wealth" is bad policy and bad ethics.

It's also immoral to create public works programs, another vote-getting ploy Obama has recently employed. Obama declared last weekend before an adoring crowd in Colorado:
I'll put 2 million more Americans to work rebuilding roads and bridges, setting up a new electricity grid so renewable energy can get to people.
This, too, is just another form of welfare, since clearly those who already have viable employment don't need a public works job. It's another form of coercively taking private capital to buy votes or approval. It's also the lowest form of engineering: social engineering. His goal is to create the false impression of a beneficent State who supplies all things good for 'the people'.

It doesn't occur to FDR the Second to question whether it's appropriate for the head of the Executive Branch to act like the head of Fluor Engineering. I don't recall that Presidential authority being enumerated in the Constitution, but we know by now what Mr. Obama thinks of that document. He chafes at its "essential constraints."

Ethics aside for a moment, again, it's no accident that such programs invariably do more harm than good economically, i.e. they're impractical. True, some get employment who might not otherwise, or at least at a higher wage than they might in the private sector. But if a local area needs a road, a bridge, or a new organization that produces energy infrastructure, the free market could create one — when it's economically viable — if it were free to do so.

After all, governments feel impelled to act only when the market hasn't, proving by that fact alone that the project is economically unwise (absent being legally constrained). Of course, that principle can't be accepted by those who think the government is better at determining what is economically wise than the free market.

There are various words for such people. They might be called unreconstructed socialists. They might be economic naifs. But whatever description fits best, there is one thing they all most certainly are: wrong. The evidence on that score is overwhelming, recent nattering that "capitalism has failed" to the contrary.

So, if the practicality argument fails, they have to fall back on moral ones. "It may not be profitable, but it's fair." Oh? Fair to whom? To those whose money has been taken to fund an enterprise they didn't choose to invest in or whose goods or services they may not have wanted enough to pay for?

The only way to accept that argument is to believe that an Obama administration would have superior morals. Then, the person espousing the view is no longer called economically foolish; he's called willfully delusional. Enough more years of that and we'll all be called something else: slaves.

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