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Dec 17, 2016

Imposing Regulatory State is Causing the Decline of the West



I think decadence in the West is a result of a gradual change in the goals government pursues and the way government operates.  The basis of Western Civilization, and arguably any civilization, is the rule of law.  Without predictability, economic investments with long term payoffs are impossible to make.  Our current prosperity began with John Locke’s idea, from his 1690 “Two Treatises on Government,” that government required the consent of the governed and that government’s purpose was to secure the life, liberty and property of the people it governed. The way Western "democratic" governments operate today is to have experts make regulatory decisions for people without their consent.  Government makes people follow rules that it thinks are good for them, and redistributes property in the name of social justice, which usually means buying votes with entitlements.

English history from 1600 to 1700 was very important to the Founders who set up the United States.  The Declaration of Independence was the American Colonies’ formal withdrawal of our consent to be governed by King George III.  This was especially important because King George III was King of England by the Act of Settlement passed in 1701, which chose the Hanoverians over the Stuarts to be Kings of England.  In other words, King George II was King of England by consent of the governed.  There were several contemporary claimants to the throne of England with better rights of descent than George III.

The Constitutional requirement that the president see “that the laws be faithfully executed” was a reaction to Charles I (1600-1649) and James II (1633-1701), who ignored parliamentary laws whenever they found the laws inconvenient.  The 2nd Amendment right to bear arms was an attempt to prevent military dictatorship, like the one imposed by Oliver Cromwell from 1653 to 1658.

The economic enlightenment started by Adam Smith (1723-1790), which Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) extended, argued that economic prosperity required minimal government interference beyond a stable legal framework to enforce commercial contracts.  Common practice at the time they wrote was for the government to grant huge monopolies to private companies, like the British East India Company, which was granted India.  Government granted monopolies then are very similar to crony capitalism today.  Smith and Bastiat argued against government granted monopolies. They said the economy would do better without heavy handed government interference.

 

Starting in 1887, with the passage of the law creating the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate rail road freight rates, US government moved away from the rule of law and towards regulatory guidelines which could be micromanaged.  Starting with the New Deal, the US changed the function of government to constraining liberty and redistributing property.  The New Deal era also produced John Maynard Keynes’ idea that government spending stimulates the economy.  Prior to Keynes, governments limited spending and tried to cut taxes during hard times.  Ironically, one of Keynes most famous quotes is that politicians “are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”  Most Western politicians in power today are the slaves of John Maynard Keynes.

Today, Western democratic governments are not really democratic.  The most important decisions are made by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in regulatory agencies and judges who are changing rather than interpreting the law.  The governing philosophy is that the consent of the governed is no longer needed because the governed are too ignorant to know what’s good for them.  Only government experts can make the best decisions for the people.  Increasingly, governments pay people not to work, not to take initiative and not to even try to take care of themselves.  In responding to the incentives to become dependent on the state, people are contributing to their personal decline and also to the decline and fall of the West.  When a civilization’s bill for bread and circuses, now known as transfer payments, becomes so large that they can no longer afford an army to protect themselves, the decline becomes terminal.

The way to reverse the decline is to remove the power from regulatory agencies and judges to make law without the approval of elected representatives.  We also need to stop paying people to be dependent on the state and encourage them to become independent and think for themselves.  If you give a man a fish, he’s hungry tomorrow.  If you teach a man to fish, he can feed himself by fishing every day.  If you give a man a fish every day, why would he make any effort to learn how to fish?


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