Imagining a Country

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"When governments fear the people there is liberty. When the people fear the government there is tyranny."

Some of the latest town hall meetings show that our representatives have absolutely no fear of their constituency. In the irresponsible and unprofessional case of the old and crotchety Arlen Specter, he makes it clear that he has no patience for any of his constituents that disagree with him, ask a question that he doesn’t feel is appropriate or can’t bullshit his way through. He makes comments to the affect that a question is "too vague" to have his support and moves on to the next question. In one video he is seen and heard shouting at one man to leave for passionately expressing his disgust with business as usual on Capitol Hill. A comment in which the man received resounding applause from Specter’s other constituents. But that’s how our government deals with dissent: you simply have it forcibly removed.

Barney Frank is another example of a congressman who doesn’t hesitate to label, criticize and insult his constituency, among many, many others.

I wonder just how long you or I would last at our current jobs if we spoke to our employers in such a manner.

Truth is we could fire them all today and it would have absolutely no long-term ill effects on the country or the economy. Except for probably national defense and a body to coin and regulate a sound currency — this would be only to decrease the transaction costs of doing business amongst the states and with foreign countries — I believe that we really have no need for a federal government at all. The framers of the constitution had a similar point of view and hence wrote that document in such a way as to purposefully limit the government’s power to a small subset of economic responsibilities. Even they were too optimistic though as the federal government has proven that it can’t even provide simple postal services without fraud, waste and abuse.

An idea like this always sounds odd and radical to people since our entire lives all we’ve ever known is a behemoth bureaucracy that invades our personal and professional lives at all levels. We’ve just come to expect it and tend not to think what life would be like without it, or even if life would be possible without it.

My wife grew up in communist Romania. She was 14 in 1989 when Nicolaie and Elena Ceausescu were taken out back of the federal building in Bucharest, Romania and summarily executed by a firing squad for decades of abuse of Romania’s people and resources.

My wife and others have told me on many occasions of how the Romanian government literally disappeared overnight. How the day after the communist party was driven out that everyone looked at each other as if to say: what do we do now?

It was a surreal time since all most of the people had ever known was the government’s control of them and the factors of production.

It turned out that the Romanians didn’t need the central government at all. They actually knew how to make it through their daily lives all by themselves. They knew how to get up and get dressed and cook breakfast and drive to work without imposing any costs on anyone else in the process. They knew how to be productive at work and get along with their boss and colleagues. They knew how to go grocery shopping and pay for their goods all by themselves. They knew how to communicate with one another and trade with one another. And oh how they traded.

Literally overnight, as quickly as communism disappeared, new markets appeared. Once the government constraints on trade no longer existed people were free to trade as they wished and there was an unprecedented economic boom in the 90′s. The only ill effect of this boom was the fact that the government had controlled prices for so long and kept them artificially low for so long — as the current administration is now proposing doing with healthcare prices — and had printed so much worthless currency that when those price controls were lifted and the markets cleared it became evident just how artificially low the prices had been held and hyperinflation ensued.

But other things appeared that hadn’t previously existed: innovations in technology and science, inventions in businesses and commerce, newfound creativity in the arts and social sciences. It was remarkable. And all of it because of the lack of government intervention.

It would seem though that the only way to ensure lack of government intervention is to limit government. Since even such a clearly written document as our constitution isn’t able to invoke the necessary integrity and morality in our federal civil servants, it’s clear that the only solution is to limit the federal government to nothing and allow the states to govern and trade amongst themselves and with other economic agents.

I don’t think it’s difficult for a man to imagine a country in which he actually gets to keep 95% or more of the money he earns. A country in which he doesn’t have to pay rent on his own land in the form of property taxes. A land of opportunity where hard work and ingenuity is rewarded and laziness and political posturing is punished. A land where men like Arlen Specter, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and so many others can’t make a living off of the fruits of hard-working people but rather are forced to compete with everyone else for their share of the economic pie. A country where our president is treated as the civil servant that he is and not as royalty at the expense of the commoners.

I think I’d call this land: America.

Don Cooper [send him mail] is a Florida native, Navy veteran and economist living and working in the Midwest.

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