Rebirth of Reason

The Free Radical

There Will be "A Great Debate"
by Tibor R. Machan

In a recent column of his in USA Today, Walter Shapiro intones as follows: "The unseemly haste of the tax-cut drive brings with it a little-noticed cost: the elimination of a full-throated national debate over how best to use the anticipated budget surplus."

Forget for a moment the ad hominem implied by characterizing the interest in a tax-cut as something "unseemly." That already sets up those who advocate such a poicy for a fall, instead of having their arguments considered fairly.

What is far more interesting and alarming is the suggestion that "a full-throated national debate on how best to use the anticipated budget surplus" would not actually be in the offing in case of a tax-cut.

In fact, should some of what has been taken from us by the government be returned -- something I am still not willing to believe is going to happen -- there will indeed be "a full-throated national debate," only it will take place where it should, namely, in the millions of households which will have a bit more in their budgets to spend for what they need and want. Husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, young men and women, members of various types of partnerships and the rest will spend more or less quiet moments debating among themselves what they should do with a bit of money that they had thought was lost to them forever but now have on hand, after all.

And they, unlike the politicians and bureaucrats, will have the requisite information on just what to do with the returned portion of the surplus.

Of course, some of them will, to use Al Gore's famous and demeaning term, squander the funds. Yet this would be exactly what the government would do with most of it, given the history of how government manages the funds taken from us for supposedly needed, vital projects -- like purchasing $600 toilet seats; like fighting a vicious, useless, tyrannical war on drugs; like miseducating children by the millions in a system of one-size-fits-all training centers. Yes, and we could go on with this list of examples of government squandering the loot it has collected through force of arms, despite the phony "full-throated national debates" it is holding endlessly in Congress and on the various media forums, a national debate that is really about which special interest group will be handed some of the funds and which will have to wait until it finds a bunch of lobbyists who can do better at cajoling it out of the national treasury then their current hirelings have managed.

The debates that will be held in the various homes may not uniformly result in good judgements, in the best policies. I am willing to bet all of the refund that I might receive, however, that it will in the last analysis bring more productive fruit to our nation -- in the form of fruits to the millions and millions of individual citizens whose wants and needs are really at issue in such a debate -- than anything we might hear from the government's various "debaters."

It is symptomatic of our nation's malaise -- indeed, the worldwide misguidedness on these matters -- that mainstream columnists such as Mr. Shapiro and politicians such as Al Gore totally discount what individuals might decide as they consider what to do with resources that belong to them. The so called "national debate" these folks want is to be conducted by politicians, bureaucrats and, let's not forget, Mr. Shapiro and his ilk, but by no means by the citizens who ought to be the first concern when it comes to deciding what to do with resources.

This is rank arrogance, becoming of members of a royal court in an absolute monarchy. It is indeed tragic that people like Mr. Shapiro get the high profile they do with ideas that are totally alien to the spirit of a genuine free society.

Yet that is just what is going on big time in America -- and elsewhere -- these days: individual choices are discounted from the start, their prominence is deemed to be unseemly, and, instead, we are told that only the decisions of collective bodies count for something.

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to The Free Radical?

Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (1 message)