Feb 252009
Authors: Caleb Thornton

I have to admit it — the guy can give a good speech.

As I sat and watched the President’s address to Congress and the nation on Tuesday night, those were the words that kept buzzing through my head. I caught myself agreeing with the President on several occasions and by the time it was over, I even found that the speech left me feeling nice, warm and fuzzy inside.

That is, until I came back to my senses and I realized that at the basis of his economic recovery plans, the President’s proposals meant more government spending and more government regulation, a.k.a. the same-old Democratic Party mantra.

You see, conservatives like myself tend to follow the notion that while government spending and regulation do hold a place in our society and the economy, when it comes to either one, less is more.

Honestly, the logic I use to get to this point is pretty simple.

I believe that free market capitalism based on reward, risk, incentives, success and even failure is the greatest economic system this world has known, bringing prosperity and the chance for a better life to people like you and me who would have no chance under any other system.

My guess is that even most mainstream liberals would agree with that idea, but it’s the government’s role in that economy where we fundamentally differ.

I argue that while the government does have some responsibility to regulate the extremes that can result from capitalism and to provide for other basic needs within society — such as transportation, national defense and law enforcement — more often than not government intervention into the free market and unleashed government spending will have a detrimental effect on the economy and the nation as a whole.

You see the problem is that when the government forces itself into the private economy, it ends up messing with the fundamentals that capitalism is based on.

Take, for example, the President’s plan to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of income earners in the U.S.

While it may sound good from the outside, the problem is that by doing so, the administration is essentially punishing those who have been successful within our system.

At the same time Congress has poured billions of dollars into banks, car companies and insurance companies whose business practices have ended in collapse (aided in some cases by government imposed regulations — see Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) essentially rewarding failure.

It makes no logical sense, and yet that is what comes about when the government puts its foot in the economy’s business.

And unrestricted government spending is no better.

The problem with government spending is that, unlike private companies, the government has no vested interest in ensuring that the dollars it spends comes out the other end as a successful investment.

If a company makes a bad investment, it loses money, and if it loses too much money, it goes bankrupt and ceases to exist (at least that used to be the common logic).

However, if the government makes a bad investment, it may lose money, it may go into debt, but it does not matter because the government has a never-ending supply source for new funding — the taxpayer.

Logic says that if there is no chance of failure, there is no incentive to succeed, and thus we too often are left with government spending programs that do little to fix the problem they are attempting to solve and little to aid the nation, while coming at a high cost to taxpayers like you and me.

Maybe former President Ronald Reagan put it best when he said, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

Caleb Thornton is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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