Crusing down the Road to Serfdom

Whether Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, we all must agree that the world is suffering economically. This does not seem to be a source of debate in this country anyway. No, here we debate over how we got to this point, as if suddenly proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was Bush’s fault, Carter’s fault, Obama’s fault or Clinton’s fault would magically stabilize our economy. In the midst of all of the partisan finger pointing, we have been missing what lay right in front of our faces. Our government has the power to reduce our debt and deficit through spending cuts. They have the power to help water the seeds of growth through tax incentives and breaks, they have the power to reverse course on some of our over-burdensome programs by halting planned new entitlements. Unfortunately, the only power they seem willing to exercise of late is the power they have to spend.

The United States on a federal level and the individual states are or are in danger of bankruptcy due to unfunded entitlements. Pension programs, social security, welfare, and countless other “services” are going under. As of now, the American people have been relatively temperate in their pleas to stop the spending. If we look around the world however, the response from the people of other nations has not been as reasonable.

The riots in Greece have been violent. The economic situation there is largely attributed to their vast government spending on entitlements and bureaucracy. It would be easy to begin pointing fingers, however they are in the situation now and they need to develop solutions.

To combat their rising debt and inability to pay for previously promised programs, the government of Greece has begun cutting their budget. They have cut back on pensions, public sector wages, and-at the request of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-services such as universal healthcare. None of these cuts have been popular.

The response by the Greek people has been, let’s say, less than supportive. Though the nation has collapsed financially, the sense of entitlement to government assistance has been so ingrained into the minds of the people that they have stood firm against the very things that would restore some semblance of stability. Greece has also been forced into a situation where taxes on everything from products to profits have been dramatically increased. Many would argue that this could further stifle future growth; however that is a debate for another post.

There are now riots in France in response to that government’s proposal to raise the retirement age by two years, from a comparatively low 60 to 62. A reasonable observer would find that in the face of a failing pension system, France is probably not even doing enough by raising the retirement age, but it’s a start. Other government programs such as public transportation are also being cut in France and receiving a similar reaction.

Recently the UK has ceded some control of healthcare choices and costs over to the private sector because they too are no longer able to afford their many socialist entitlement programs. And of course, like clockwork, the people are protesting. There seems to be a trend around the world that wherever governments have endeavored to provide for too many of the “needs” of their people, economic collapse is lurking nearby. These governments understand it now and are trying to correct it. What they do not seem understand is how their programs have so enslaved the people to their State masters that weaning the people off of the government dole is almost impossible.

Considering the necessity of these cuts, it would seem that the average person would understand and in the interest of providing for a better future for their children, would support or at the very least would not violently protest the changes. Why then are the reactions so radical? To answer this, one must look to who is behind these mass protests around Europe. In nearly each and every case there is a union, group of unions, socialist organization or communist group. Unions have rallied millions of supporters to turn out and protest the wage decreases or the pension cuts, knowing that these may save the economy and provide future prosperity. In reviewing the crowds, one would also find the banners of international socialist and communist groups. These groups all have a vested interest in the collapse of free societies. In desperate times, people have turned to those providing the quickest and easiest “solution”. That is how communism came to existence. It is the radicalized socialist groups, communist groups and power hungry unions, who believe they will pick up and lead where freedom “fails”.

This has penetrated into our country as well. Mass rallies organized by unions have been shown to include anti-American, pro-communist/socialist messages. These groups are rooting for a collapse. They are lobbying for more spending, greater government control and further entitlements in order to dig us deeper into ruin. They seem to have now an either ignorant or willing vehicle in reaching those ends in the form of the current U.S government. In fairness, this has been going on for decades and is not isolated to the current administration. It does however seem that the “progress” being made by these groups is accelerated and has found unprecedented support from the administration.

It is that government which in desperate times offers a quick fix rather than a long term solution that ultimately faces these types of reactions from their citizenry. Similarly, it is those people who in accepting such “fixes” are ultimately faced with the devastating result of large government and are forced by lack of alternative to either accept cuts or protest. As F.A. Hayek so eloquently put it in The Road to Serfdom, “…it is the general demand for quick and determined government action that is the dominating element in the situation, dissatisfaction with the slow and cumbersome course of democratic procedure which makes actions for action’s sake the goal.”

The government, almost by nature, seeks to increase its power. Under normal circumstances in a free society, the government does not have the opportunity to seize such power. However, when a “crises” arises, the people often plead for increased government intervention. The State is all too happy to oblige considering the power it gains by being the “savior”. It appears to be no coincidence that currently one in six Americans is on some form of government assistance.

The idea that an opportunistic government interested in furthering its control of the people is not a new one. One need only look to current politicians and those in positions of political power to see it in action. As if almost a prepared talking point, members of the current administration have been on record paraphrasing the Alinskyian notion that the government should, “never let a serious crises go to waste.” That mindset has been openly reflected numerous times. Yet, knowing that they are taking advantage of the problems we face, we keep allowing them to take more and more power and spend more and more money.

While the socialist governments of Europe are cutting back on their spending and entitlement programs, we are increasing both. Americans once thought ourselves immune from foreign attack, sadly we were proven wrong. We now think ourselves immune from complete financial collapse, while we pray that we are the economic realities point to the contrary. If we remove the special interests and corrupt politicians from the equation and rely on the timeless bedrocks of prosperity-freedom and self responsibility-we can find our way through this mess. It will take time, it will take diligence and it will take sacrifice, but it is the price we pay for being free and ultimately we will once again be the better for it.