HAWAII, May 7, 2012 – “Le changement c’est maintenant!” (Change is now!) might be the slogan of the day for the French and their new president-elect François Hollande, but having heard that phrase in English during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, it’s only fair that France be reminded plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – the more things “change” the more they stay the same.
Amidst an ongoing economic crisis, France – like the United States – has seen a realignment of its markets, massive unemployment, a credit downgrade and fiscal imbalance leading to what some have quaintly described as government “austerity measures.”
Cutting government services and raising taxes is often a formula for electoral disaster, but fixing the problem of big government with more government always results in total, final disaster for politicians and people alike down the road.
In 1850, the French economist Frederic Bastiat warned:
“When, therefore, plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who perpetuate it, all the plundered classes tend, either by peaceful or revolutionary means, to enter in some way into the manufacturing of laws. These classes, according to the degree of entitlement at which they have arrived, may propose to themselves two very different ends, when they thus attempt the attainment of their political rights; either they may wish to put an end to lawful plunder, or they may desire to take part in it. Woe to the nation where this latter though prevails among the masses, at the moment when they, in their turn, seize upon the legislative power!”
Bastiat’s warning sounds like a perfect description of America’s 2008 election and France’s recent presidential election.
The lesson to be learned is that big government – aka socialism – never works, no matter the name or pedantry that candidates, parties or academics attempt to mask it with. The solution to the problems of government – be they inequality, unemployment, lack of access to healthcare and more – is always less government.
No one can legislate prosperity, no matter how many handouts are given or how many public positions are created (or preserved). No one can legislate good business practices, no matter how many goods are banned or how many market activities are regulated. Only free markets can provide consumers with exactly what they want, when they want it.
In 1975, Ronald Reagan told Reason Magazine that libertarian thinkers such as Bastiat, Mises, Hayek and Hazlitt were among his favorite economists. Today, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is one of the few elected officials of influence who openly embraces the economic doctrine of Bastiat and applies it to their view of the proper role of government.
In Liberty Defined, Paul warns “the freer a country is, the more productive and civilized it becomes … The philosophy of big government generates the need for revenues. The bigger the government, the more revenues required, which threatens economic and political stability … Groups and individuals that justify high taxation and big government automatically reject constitutional restraint of federal government activities. They cannot be champions of personal liberty and at the same time promote government interference in our economic and personal lives.”
Paul goes on to say, “Politically, there are limits on the degree of taxation that the people will tolerate, but the appetite for government spending is never diminished. That is why borrowing and debt continue and grow exponentially, ultimately leading to the inflationary tax that to be paid at a later date. If we as a nation continue to believe that paying for civilization through taxation is a wise purchase and the only way to achieve civilization, we are doomed.”
France clearly did not listen to Bastiat, but America still has the opportunity to listen to Ron Paul’s calls for cutting government and implement it into action at every level of representation. Irrespective of what party you affilate with or who you plan to vote for this year, know this: unless a rollback of our bloated city, state and federal government occurs soon, America’s next revolution will look like the French Revolution.
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