Grassroot Perspective: Land of the Sorta Free, Compromise and Agree with Me, and More

This column was originally published here on Hawaii Reporter.

Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind

Quote of the Week:

“The good news is that, according to the Obama administration, the rich will pay for everything. The bad news is that, according to the Obama administration, you’re rich. “–P. J. O’Rourke 

Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government.  Here are some of the highlights from the past week:

Land of the Somewhat Free

It will come as no surprise that Americacontinues its mediocre performance on the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World 2012 index.  After climbing to the top 5 between 1980 and 2000, we dropped to 8th in 2005, and now sit at an embarrassing 18th place.  What figures into their assessment?  Things like size of government, sound money, regulation, and freedom to trade internationally.  So it’s not hard to figure out what has happened in the last several years that has caused the precipitous decline.  The size of our government has ballooned, and the current administration (whose anti-obesity campaign should really be aimed at federal government programs) is intent on growing it more.  Our monetary policy seems as though it was designed by a drunk man playing darts at 3am.  And our bloated federal agencies continue to try to justify their existence (and increase their power by stealth) by increasing our regulatory burden.

The greatest irony of all is that all of these changes were sold to the American people on the promise that they would somehow make our lives better.  But, as the authors of the Economic Freedom index point out, greater economic freedom is closely tied to indicators of well-being.  Like greater life expectancy, higher GDP, and so on. Thus, as our economic freedom slips away, so will our other advantages.


Every once in a while, during an election, a candidate says something (generally by accident) that ignites both sides and underlines the philosophical difference between the parties.  As is the case with Romney’s controversial comment about the 47% of the public that is dependent on the government.  Many, like Merrill Matthews, have jumped into the fray to explain that Romney has a point about the growth of the entitlement mentality and the harm it has done to our society.  But the conversation about the accuracy of Romney’s math and the harm done by what Merrill defines as the “victimization” mindset that underlies government dependency only gets halfway there.  There is another factor, and a more optimistic one, that trusts in people’s fundamental desire to escape dependency.  (As can be seen from the success of the welfare reforms passed underClinton and now being dismantled by Obama.)  Sure, there are always going to be those who aren’t interested in moving away from entitlements, but why assume this trend is irreversible?  As Dick Rowland (President of Grassroot Institute) states in response to Merrill’s article:

I believe he is wrong on endorsing the 47% theory. Given that 47% are on the dole does not mean that they want themselves or their children to stay there. If the question were asked, “Which candidate is more likely to allow and foster a person to move UP to more individual liberty, freedom to choose, authority, responsibility, creativity, productivity and accountability, just as described and endorsed in the Declaration of Independence; and which one would force us DOWN toward bigger, more intrusive, more demanding government, toward the tyranny rejected by the Declaration?” the answer of at least 60% would be UP. Arthur Brooks says in his book “The Battle” that it is more like 70%. The correct question must be asked to get the true answer.

Taking our Pension Medicine

When it comes to the pension crisis, the behavior of the state and local governments in question is a bit like children who know they have a problem, but are hoping that someone, anyone (Superman? Mom and Dad? Santa?) will come and save them before they have to deal with the unpleasant consequences.  We know what’s wrong.  (Unfunded and unsustainable pension liabilities.) We know how we got here.  And we even have a road map forward.  Numerous think tanks and experts have weighed in with the solution.  Like the Capital Research Center, which recently published its Best Practices for Reforming State Employee Pensions.  In it, they identify six structural factors that states will have to deal with in resolving their pension problems, issues like pension payouts based on final year pay (to prevent the practice of gaming the system for higher benefits), faulty accounting standards, and collective bargaining.  But, as always, it’s going to be up to the voters to make our state representatives take their medicine on pension reform instead of trying to duck out of taking action or responsibility on it.

“Forward” is Backward

Much like Romney’s comments on the 47% have come to be a snapshot of his instincts on policy, so too have President Obama’s remarks on redistribution of wealth shown where his inclination are.  And as Thomas Sowell points out in this column, this is a worrisome sign in many ways.  As Sowell explains, confiscatory government policies are most damaging to future wealth and human capital.  Numerous governments have pursued policy of redistribution, none of them successfully.  In Sowell’s words, Obama’s policy instincts may be billed as going “forward,” but are actually moving us backwards.

Why Won’t You Compromise and Agree With Me?

It’s a problem of simple mathematics.  One side wants to spend a lot more money.  The other side wants to spend less (or none).  The first group says we should have more government (more agencies, more regulations, more more).  The other side isn’t so sure.

And then everyone says: “Washingtonneeds bipartisanship! We need compromise!”

And compromising between these two position inevitably grows the government and costs money.  The compromise position between lots of money and less/no money is . . . some money (probably closer to the “lots” side).  As Edwin Feulner and Senator DeMint explain here, this is whyWashington is both broken . . . and broke.  It is the danger of bipartisanship and the reason that thinking (and voting) Americans should give real thought to what a candidate’s promises of “bipartisanship” really mean.


Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

Is this commentary helpful to you?  If so, please help us defray our costs by clicking HERE to support the Grassroot Institute.  We exist based on contributions and accept no government funding.

Please let us know what you think about this reporting. We want to serve your needs, so include your recommendations. Send to maliah@grassrootinstitute.org


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