Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Government nihilism

Government is institutionally reactive. Its bureaucratic structure and limited purpose to maintain order and the rule of law inhibit its own creativity. Government reacts to changing conditions. It reacts to the will of the governed. It does not create. As such, government fills only needs that already exist. If there is demand for a road, it will build a road. If there is demand for a sewer, it will build a sewer.

Politicians’ forays into the supply side—known as corporatism and picking winners à la Solyndra—destroy wealth and hurt the economy. The corporations seeking government subsidies are old and fat and too much like the government whose teat they pucker up to. The lack of flexibility in obtaining and spending taxpayer money leads to failure in the dynamic free market. Politicians hide their failures by skewing the market with perpetual subsidies and corporate welfare. Think ethanol.

Generally averse to risk, government prefers state patrimony of “static” markets, if there are such things. Automobiles, for example, have been in demand for 80 years. Struggling legacy automobile manufacturers like GM and Chrysler present politicians a relatively safe opportunity to show they care about the working man.

If they really cared, they would have let those companies go under. The market for horse-drawn carriages, in fashion for centuries, probably seemed like it would last forever. But the market changed, and automobiles became the new fashion, indeed a new way of life. Now imagine if government bolstered horse-drawn carriage manufacturers with taxpayer money, siphoning away people’s creative energies to hold off economic progress.

That in effect is what Rep. Joaquín Castro means when he calls for “purposeful government.” His “infrastructure of opportunity” is not the rule of law, but the misrule of man. It is politicians who, because of presumed (in fact, limited) expertise or ideology, think they know the desires of those they govern better than they know it themselves. They don’t.

All Joaquín Castro can truly claim to know is what people want through polls and surveys. All he can do is react to that demand. Student loans and business loans—start-up capital in the state economy—go to meet existing demand, not to creating something new. There is no way he can pinpoint the next breakthrough, the next product or service that enhances people’s lives. The leading edge of innovation is years ahead of changing the world. Steve Jobs was selling primitive home computers in 1976. Home computers didn’t become a thing until 20 years later.

Castro characterizes the push for limited government as nihilist. Nihilism is a belief in nothing that logically devolves into ultimate selfishness, a worldview with I at the center. Limited government is the opposite. Limited government means decentralized power, unleashing man’s creativity to improve his condition. Castro wants big government—led by “experts” like him—to be at the center, to be the sink into which we all invest our hopes and dreams, to which we all are submissive. If that isn’t nihilist, I don’t know what is.

Related reading: “Union-assisted suicide.”

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