Even if you were naïve enough to believe that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was actually listening to anything through her mercifully brief “listening tour” to Iowa — during which she met with a handful of hand-selected and bused-in Democratic activists — the whole adventure demonstrates what Nobel prize-winning economist F. A. Hayek called “the Fatal Conceit.”
While in the Hawkeye State, Mrs. Clinton’s fabrications — no doubt so frequent due to an overdose of Liagra — included the lie that “all my grandparents, you know, came over here (as immigrants).” Even the liberals at PolitiFact point out that only one of her four grandparents was not born in the United States.
Still, let’s engage in a willing suspension of disbelief and take Mrs. Clinton at her word when she explained, “before I roll out my policies, I want to hear from you on the front lines.” She added that she wants to “build on what works” in Obamacare and, as the liberal British Guardian newspaper put it, she “leans left out of Iowa with a bold progressive checklist.”
I understand: You’re trying not to laugh when I suggest going along with Hillary’s claim that she really wants to hear from the people before putting out a platform, rather than that she’s basically doing her own polling to find out what she can get away with politically and avoiding giving the media and her Republican competitors fodder for hard questions. But again, let’s say she means it. Is that actually a sign of something good?
Hillary, in addition to being a prototypical Wellesley radical coed smitten with Saul Alinsky, has an unfading Progressive streak running through her every condescending and elitist thought. Namely, she believes that she and other smart people and “experts” are so much wiser than you or I — it’s a wonder we can even make it through our pathetic work days — that we ought to gratefully accept a technocratic bureaucracy of ivory tower-cloistered PhDs whose beneficence should be given control over every important aspect of our lives.
The problem, as Hayek point out, is that no expert or group of experts could ever hope to “generate and garner greater knowledge” than can all of us troglodyte participants and believers in “spontaneously generated moral traditions underlying the competitive market order” as we manage our own businesses, know our own customers, suppliers, employees, local market peculiarities, etc.
Therefore, “what works” in any government program is usually some provision that would have been unnecessary but for prior actions by government “experts” who created a problem to begin with. Obamacare is a perfect example: essentially all of the aspects of American health insurance that consumers objected to prior to Obamacare resulted from government restricting competition within that market so that, for example, a resident of California is (still) not allowed to buy a much cheaper plan from Idaho.
Yes, Obamacare has helped alleviate a few problems, including some undoubtedly bad behavior by insurers, but competition would have done the same thing for trillions of dollars less. There’s a reason that Americans are generally happy with every kind of insurance other than health insurance: it’s the one insurance market that most feels the dead hand of government regulation. Even the ridiculous structure of the health insurance market whereby premiums are deductible for companies but not individuals (although that situation has been slightly rectified in recent years) was caused by government.
Books have been written about the flaws in, and costs of, Obamacare. But my point is a larger one: Hillary, like all elitist Progressives, believes that the only solution to human needs or problems — including problems caused by government — is more government.
And again, it’s not just that she believes in the goodness of government, which she does, even if it’s secondary to her own hunger for power; it’s that she disbelieves in the power and goodness of individuals living and enriching their own lives through the billions of daily voluntary transactions by which Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” operates.
But it’s not just Obamacare. It’s everything.
On Tuesday at a staged roundtable at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa, Hillary ticked off a small number of campaign themes, promising more later (in what unfortunately is one of the few things she’s telling the truth about.) These included:
Well, one out of four ain’t bad. Protecting our country is indeed the primary and most fundamental function of government. That said, the woman who spearheaded the most feckless and self-destructive American foreign policy for a century hardly seems like the right “champion” for that particular cause.
But let’s look at the other three — while noting that “protecting our country” was last on her short list.
Does any rational person believe that government is more likely to come up with the next world-changing technology than the private sector is? Even Hillary probably doesn’t believe that, so what is government’s role in “the economy of tomorrow”? The right answer is “approximately nothing except to defend property and contracts, and punish fraud.”
To the extent that the economy of today is underperforming its potential, it is due to government. The misallocation of capital that caused the financial crisis was caused by government. The fear of entrepreneurs to start or expand business is due to fear of government regulation, not least Obamacare. The millions of Americans who are becoming lazy because of the ease of getting food stamps, unemployment benefits, and — when unemployment runs out — pretending to have disabilities to further fleece taxpayers are able to do so because of government.
Government prevents the economy of tomorrow. The right answer, then, is for Hillary and her “expert” friends to sit down, shut up, and get out of the way.
Language like “strengthening families and communities” is usually liberal code for “helping black people.” But the answer, even for a coded question, is the same: government is part of the problem, which means more government isn’t the solution.
As Kay Hymowitz explains in a must-read article for City Journal entitled “The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies,” there was growing trouble in the stability and formation of black nuclear families before the implementation of the welfare state under President Johnson’s “Great Society” program. But the welfare state poured fuel on the fire, paying people to have more children and fewer marriages despite out-of-wedlock childbirth being one of the strongest predictors of that child’s ending up in poverty.
The brilliant economist Thomas Sowell notes that “the political left’s welfare state makes poverty more comfortable, while penalizing attempts to rise out of poverty. Unless we believe that some people are predestined to be poor, the left’s agenda is a disservice to them, as well as to society.”
Even the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof couldn’t deny it: “This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency.”
It may go slightly too far to call that child abuse, but data consistently show that children living with two parents have more “behavior self-control” and are less likely to be “exposed to high levels of aggravated parenting than are children living with a single parent.” Furthermore, “Children living with two married adults (biological or adoptive parents) have, in general, better health, greater access to health care, and fewer emotional or behavioral problems than children living in other types of families.” They also do better in school and in professional life.
And if that’s not enough, “Nonmarital births are at higher risk of having adverse birth outcomes such as low birthweight, preterm birth, and infant mortality than are children born to married women.”
As Michael Barone put it, “it is an uncomfortable truth that children of divorce and children with unmarried parents tend to do much worse in life than children of two-parent families.”
Other than the perhaps-slightly-effective use of the tax code to encourage rather than penalize marriage and children — something I oppose because it involves the transfer of wealth from one group of Americans (single and childless) to another group (married with children) — the best thing the government can do here is to forget about “family” policy.
Instead, popular politicians (is that an oxymoron?) should use their bully pulpits to encourage marriage and to urge societal leaders such as priests and rabbis and pastors to encourage marriage for anybody who wants to have (or adopt) children.
I say this not as a social conservative or someone whinging about “moral decay” in the country but as an American watching over 44 percent of our children now being born to single parents and knowing, because the data have been so consistent for so many decades, that these choices are harming future generations and thereby weakening the greatest country in the history of humankind.
And of course, the disasters that are public school systems in parts of the United States where the people most desperately need a decent education to break the cycle of poverty represent the most inexcusable malign impact of government on “families and communities.” With Democratic politicians beholden to teachers unions’ money, poor black kids are victims of the very politicians mindlessly supported by the overwhelming majority of black voters — and those white liberals who so loudly decry their plight while not truly understanding it.
Combining the welfare state, the “marriage penalty” in the tax code (which most poor people aren’t impacted by anyway) and bad public schools — just to name a few harmful things foisted on us by politicians — the government has long been a significant contributing factor to the destruction of families and communities. In short, government can do little to strengthen families and communities. But it can do — and has done much — to harm them.
Finally, the truly ironic statement by Hillary Clinton that she — whose campaign and supporters hope to raise an “obscene” $2.5 billion to fund her presidential ambition — wants to get money out of politics. As John Podhoretz points out, “To give you a sense of just how mind-blowing (that amount is), consider the fact that in 2012, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney together spent $2.14 billion.”
If there were ever a case of government trying to solve a problem of its own causing, this is it.
Money flows into politics because — and only because —government does so many things it shouldn’t. It picks winners and losers through regulations and earmarks. It stifles competition to help political allies and passes rules and imposes taxes to punish those who are out of favor at that moment. It is no wonder that lobbying budgets of companies and industry associations have exploded in recent years and that “K Street” is now widely understood to be the home of one of America’s true growth industries.
Politicians publicly decry the excessive influence of lobbyists, but they’re crying wolf because those revolving doors represent future lucrative employment for themselves and senior staffers. In short, there is precious little incentive for politicians to truly end lobbyists’ ability to influence policy. From the “demand side,” there will be no way to end lobbying until and unless Congress and executive branch agencies simply stop involving themselves in matters that should be left to free enterprise. I’m not holding my breath for such a revolutionary change.
As the brilliant George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux (who recently wondered why such a bald-faced liar as Hillary Clinton is taken seriously) once told me, “if you want to get the money out of politics, you have to get politics out of money.”
But nothing that Hillary Clinton proposes involves lessening the power and intrusiveness of government, and therefore efforts to keep money out of politics will be as fruitful as thinking that throwing a rock into a fast-moving river will cause the water to stop rushing by.
While the specifics of any particular Clinton policy may be described by her media cheerleaders as “bold,” the underlying mindset is simply old. It’s all about control by “smart people” and “experts” of the rest of us dim-witted plebeians. It is the steel fist of tyranny in a velvet glove.
If Hillary were to be truly bold, she’d try something truly different: trusting that Americans are smart enough and capable enough to manage our own lives, and giving us the freedom to prove it.
She won’t, of course; words like “trust” and “freedom” would never cross a mind such as hers.
All that remains to be seen is whether Hillary Clinton’s conceit is fatal to her presidential hopes or to the nation’s aspirations for a thriving future. The 2016 election will surely kill one of them.
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