Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Freedom, History, Statism | Tags: big government, Nanny Government, Paternalism
We complain about “paternalism,” and about “nanny government,” and about the “elites” in Washington who presume to tell us how to live our lives. People hate twisty CFL lightbulbs, and resent the governmental ban on ordinary incandescent bulbs, especially when they find out that the ban was initiated so lightbulb makers could make more profit. Calorie counts on all menus, forbidding children from bringing their lunch from home, restrictors on showerheads, the list goes on and on.
It is all the same syndrome. Instead of turning their attention to their own lives, they want to meddle in everyone else’s. First it is for your good health. Then it is to save energy, and save water, then it’s just something that annoys them, and pretty soon it’s a regulation that would help out a major supporter.
Power corrupts, and soon those who attain power start believing that government, at their direction, can better decide how taxpayer money should be invested, that government can do better research, that government can decide what products should be made and how they should be sold. Back in 2008, candidate Obama called for “an end to the age of oil in our time.” He called for one million plug-in hybrids capable of 150 miles to the gallon. He called for a $7,000 tax credit for consumers who bought early models. He demanded one half of all car purchases by the federal government would be plug-in hybrids or all-electric by 2012.
How did we slip from a market-based economy to central planning? What made a community organizer, someone whose only executive experience was the disastrously failed Annenberg Challenge, and a stint as a part-time lecturer in civil rights law, decide that he knew better than the American people what products we should buy and use and produce? There’s a long history of Central Planning, and it never, never works. Government, at best, is an enormous clumsy bureaucracy that does almost everything badly.
It’s top-down versus bottom-up. When an individual has an idea, hones it until he has it right, is willing to mortgage his house and beg money from his relatives, then has to convince investors, venture capitalists or banks to finance his dream— and has to prove it over and over to bring it to market— that’s bottom-up. Some assume that vast spending by government will overcome technology hurdles, consumer preferences, and business acumen, and then economies of scale will bring down the price so the product can be justified in the market.
Lord Acton, the British historian, said “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The Founders had experience of governmental power and they were wise enough to write a Constitution that limited the power of government. We the People grant certain powers to our government —but government is not entitled to keep enlarging those powers without our consent, even when they think it’s for our own good.
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