Only a Matter of Principle?

I’ll be the first to admit that I do not hold a Ph.Genius in economics.

I have had mixed feelings about the proposed bailout, like so many other conservatives.

Some who are far more knowledgable about economics – really brilliant people, like Bernanke and Paulson – have told us that this is a real crisis, and that the only entity with the resources, clout, and will to intervene and avert catastrophe is the U.S. Government. They say the Government must act, act decisively, and act quickly.

Our conservative principles say, let the market fix this problem itself; let weak, innefficient businesses that made bad decisions fail. Knowing that such a decision will cause pain, we say we’ll suffer the pain so that in the end, the market will be stronger.

As we struggle with the two sides of this issue, I am disturbed by a recurring refrain I’ve heard from the news, politicians, commentators, and bloggers – many of them Republicans. That refrain goes something like this: “Opponents of the bailout reject the bailout simply on a matter of principle… its a knee-jerk reaction they’re making without thinking… this is something too important to decide by some abstract principle…”.

I’m going to leave to another post the argument about how principles ought to be what guide us; that anyone who doesn’t decide ahead of time what their guiding principles are and that they will make decisions based on those principals will be tossed around by every little wave of public opinion, whim, expedience, and all kinds of other pressures that are far worse bases for making decisions. This is probably the biggest problem I see in modern politics.

The fact is, this isn’t some abstract principle. This is another skirmish in a battle that has been going on ever since this country was founded. As soon as we decide that one skirmish isn’t important enought to fight, the battle is lost. The battle? For the last few decades it has been summed up with the old saw that “a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have”. Its the battle to keep the government and those that run it from having far too much power and influence in our daily lives.

Ever since FDR enlarged the government and its role in our lives in the aftermath of the Depression, liberals have had an insatiable apetite for more and conservatives have been attempting to hold back further growth in the role and power of the Federal Government. Most of the time it has been a losing battle.

I amazed to look out now and see an incredible dance going on: one in which a Republican administration is about to create a program that grows the government exponentially – essentially handing the house keys to the robber that wants to break in. At the same time, the Democrats are playing coy and even though they have the votes to make it happen are holding out – till they can get more Republicans on board! Sadly, many of them are getting on board. This travesty goes far beyond the wrong that has already been done in the current administration as it championed the Medicare prescription drug plan and the amnesty bill.

I don’t want a bigger government, even if the growth is meant to stem a perceived financial catastrophe. I don’t want my money – and don’t forget, its MY money, not the government’s – being spent on other people’s bad mortgages and businesses bad decisions, and Barney Frank’s favorite pork project, and ACORN, and….

That’s not just a matter of principle. Its the war we’ve been in for a long time, and its worth fighting.