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The State on Autopilot
The State on Autopilot
Smith Op-Ed in Liberty Unbound Magazine
December 31, 2000
The almost-tie election, both in the presidential sweepstakes and in the House and Senate, suggest some problems ahead for the friends of economic and individual liberty. Yes, there was a lack of decisive choice for more government – a good thing (recall that even Gore [gasp!] “opposed big government”). Tragically, the vote gave little encouragement to reining in a government that is already too big. Normally, gridlock isn’t such a bad thing (recall the remark of Will Rogers: “Now here’s some good news: Congress is dead-locked and cannot act!”). A divided government is unlikely to take any decisive action, and that is a good start.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The problem is that the welfare/regulatory state seems to be on “autopilot,” spiraling ever upward. The entitlement class has become a significant sector of the electorate: bread-and-circuses creates many friends in the populace. Absent some ability to discipline the welfare and regulatory agencies, none of this is likely to change.
But discipline requires either new laws (unlikely in the new Congress) or new people (unlikely in a Gore administration) or successful court challengers (even more unlikely in a Gore-appointed court). Thus, the outcome of the current election is of more than minor interest. If Gore is elected, watch for aggressive administrative efforts to further erode the concept of responsive government, efforts to implement treaties before ratification (the Kyoto global warming initiatives are already underway), and a continued growth in the entitlement state. Moreover, Gore may well be able to frighten businesses and individuals from any support of our groups. They’ve already sent the IRS to audit some of our organizations, and more of this is in the cards.
A Bush administration poses fewer risks, but there is still reason for concern. The prior Bush administration, after all, enacted the Clean Air Act amendments and revitalized the anti-trust divisions at the FTC and DOJ. Moreover, a Bush administration might well wish to emphasize statesmanship in global arena (much like George Bush at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio). The Bush administration might be enticed into signing onto a host of international treaties that will weaken freedoms here at home.
By the time this piece is published, the decision will be made. God save America.