Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Republic Rests On the Knife's Edge

Predicting the future is always a tricky business. Still, some assertions are on safe ground. One obvious one is that unless Federal spending is drastically reduced, and soon, we're in deep trouble as a nation. No country is immune from the Greece endpoint and unless things change in a big way, we'll reach it within a generation.

We're one step closer to that thanks to a fact advertised recently by Edward Lazear, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush:
We’ll hit a 70% debt to GDP ratio by around 2013. Those kinds of numbers mean that in the very near future the U.S. government will be spending more on servicing its debt than it spends on national defense.
Think about that for a minute. The Federal government (i.e., in the final analysis, the taxpayers) will soon spend more on interest payments than on the means to secure us from foreign threats.

Fortunately, not all is gloom and doom. Rep. Eric Cantor is leading a crusade to reverse, or at least slow, the trend.

Will he succeed? Not entirely. Republican Congressmen are far too morally weak to really do what's necessary and November isn't likely to radically change that. There's no broad movement yet for seriously curtailing Social Security and Medicare expenditures, for example. Those twin "third rails" everyone is still afraid to touch still account for over 40% of the Federal Pie.

Serious as Dr. Lazear's point is, interest currently accounts for 'only' 6% of the total. Even just shifting the focus, though, can have a big impact on the number one economic problem we now face: paralyzing uncertainty generated by lack of confidence in the future. Banks and businesses are holding trillions in cash reserves they won't lend or invest. They have no idea what impoverishing club Obama and his cronies are likely to whack them with next.

There's something more important than politicians' tepid efforts at fiscal responsibility, though: the awakening among the American electorate, now in its second year and growing. If enough voters come to realize not only are the Democrats spending us into oblivion, but the current Republican leadership is too accommodating, things will change for the better.

There are signs that's happening, and fast. Candidates espousing fiscal sanity are making serious inroads against even long-seated and well-funded incumbents in both parties. Some of them are apparently sincere. Politicians like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Minnesota's Rep. Michelle Bachmann are vilified by the left-leaning press (i.e. just about all of them), but pretty popular with their constituencies. They're inspiring Tea Party-favored candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada.

More hopeful still is the fact that the new enlightenment centers not fundamentally on money, but liberty and support for the Constitution. Tea Partiers know that the Feds are not just spending more than they should, but regulating where they should not. The money we're spending to Federally fund programs that should be private — absurdly large as it is — is still modest compared to the locked-up potential of a free, productive people.

That exercise doesn't require any statistics. Consider East and West Germany up to the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Compare China now, halting as its steps toward freedom are, to China 30 years ago. Liberty is good, even glorious. But it's also highly practical. The more people get, the more they benefit from it, leading to a virtuous cycle.

Americans are beginning to realize once again their chief asset: freedom. That's a good sign because it will take more than engaging personalities and nice-sounding phrases during a couple of elections to create big improvements in the face of fierce Progressive opposition.

Shaving Leviathan readers already know that, but it's not a view that's universally shared, however much lip service it may receive. Without sound ideas, Americans are helpless in the face of the first Marxist who asserts "a hungry man is not free."

Those ideas will have to be more than a repetition of patriotic bromides, too. The generation before the Founders and the Founders themselves had to do far more than simply repeat the words "freedom is good." They had to prove it with argument and example, written and lived. This they did, in pamphlet after pamphlet beginning long before the publication of the Declaration of Independence.

As Adams noted, "The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760 - 1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington."

The situation is serious, but not hopeless. Everything depends on how large, and how deep, the Renaissance really is — and that remains to be seen. And, if we're successful, there will be no need to shed anyone's blood. If we succeed, we'll have achieved something no nation on earth has managed, not even our own: a bloodless revolution to restore freedom.

Will we, though? Personally, I'm betting on the wisdom of the American people. I have to. It's the only game in town.

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