Has Barack Obama learned nothing in three years? Last night, during his State of the Union address, he promised “a blueprint for an economy.” But economies are crushed by blueprints. An economy is really nothing more than people participating in an unfathomably complex spontaneous network of exchanges aimed at improving their material circumstances. It can’t even be diagrammed, much less planned. And any attempt at it will come to grief.
Politicians like Obama believe they are the best judges of how we should conduct our lives. Of course a word like “blueprint” would occur to the president. He, like most who want his job, aspires to be the architect of a new society.
But we who love our lives and our freedom say: No, thanks. We need no social architect. We need liberty under law. That’s it.
Obama—and most Republicans are no different—doesn’t understand the real liberal revolution that transformed civilization. The crux of that revolution is that law should define general visible rules of just conduct, applicable to all, with no eye to particular outcomes. In other words, as Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek taught, the only “purpose” of law is to enable us all to pursue our individual purposes in peace.
If Obama really wanted, as he says, a society in which “everybody gets a fair shot,” he would work to shrink government so that the sphere of freedom could expand. Instead, he expands government and raises taxes on wealthier people, as though giving politicians more money were a way to make society better. Instead, the interventionist state rigs the game on behalf of special interests.
What should Obama have said in his speech? Here’s what I wish he’d said:
Our debt has passed $15 trillion. It will reach Greek levels in just 10 years.
But if we make reasonable cuts to what government spends, our economy can grow us out of our debt. Cutting doesn’t just make economic sense, it is also the moral thing to do. Government is best which governs least.
We’ll start by closing the Department of Education, which saves $100 billion a year. It’s insane to take money from states only to launder it through Washington and then return it to states.
Next, we’ll close the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That saves $41 billion. We had plenty of housing in America before a department was created.
Then we eliminate the Commerce Department: $9 billion. A government that can’t count votes accurately should not try to negotiate trade. We will eliminate all corporate welfare and all subsidies. That means agriculture subsidies, green energy subsidies, ethanol subsidies and so on. None of it is needed.
I propose selling Amtrak. Why is government in the transportation business? Let private companies compete to run the trains.
And we must finally stop one of the biggest assaults on freedom and our pocketbook: the war on drugs. I used drugs. It’s immoral to imprison people who do what I did and now laugh about.
Still, all these cuts combined will only dent our deficit. We must cut Medicare, Social Security and the military.
I know. Medicare and Social Security are popular. But they are unsustainable. The only way to cut costs and still have medical innovation is to free the market. So I propose that we repeal Obamacare immediately. My proposal was a mistake. We should repeal all government interference in the medical and insurance industries, including licensing. It all impedes competition.
We must shrink the military’s mission to true national defense. That means pulling our troops out of Germany, Japan, Italy and dozens of other countries. America cannot and should not try to police the world.
Those cuts will put America on the road to solvency. But that’s not enough. We also need economic growth.
Our growth has stalled because millions of pages of regulations make businesses too fearful to invest. Entrepreneurs don’t know what the rules—or taxes—will be tomorrow.
All destructive laws must go. I endorse the Stossel Rule: For every new law passed, we must repeal two old ones.
OK, Obama will never say that.
But I can dream, can’t I?
John Stossel’s column is reprinted from Reason.com with permission. COPYRIGHT 2011 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS, INC.