The War the Government Cannot Win
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Ludwig von Mises said that the great accomplishment of economists was to draw attention to the extreme limits on the power of government. His point was not merely that government should be limited, but that it is limited by the very structure of reality. It cannot make all people rich by its own initiative. It cannot provide universal housing, literacy, and health. It cannot raise wages across the board. It cannot ban products. Those who seek to accomplish economic ends such as these are choosing the wrong means. That is because there is something more powerful than government: namely economic law.
And what is economic law? It is a force that operates within the structure of all societies everywhere that governs the production and allocation of material resources and time according to strict bounds of what is possible. Some things are just not possible. It just so happens that this includes most of the demands that are made by the public and pressure groups on the government. This was the great discovery of the modern science of economics. This was not known by the ancients. It was not known by the fathers of the early church. It was the discovery of the medieval schoolmen, and the insight was gradually elaborated upon and systematized over the centuries, culminating in the classical and Austrian traditions of thought.
The worst lie is the big one: that government can accomplish wonderful things if we give it enough power, money, and discretion. No matter how many times we hear it, or in what context, it is always and everywhere a lie. A leader who says this is the equivalent of the snake in the garden who promises that glorious knowledge comes with just one bite of fruit. And yet we as a people keep being lured into accepting it.
We should not ask government to win a war on terror, end poverty, make everyone healthy and literate, provide for us when we are old, or anything else. Nothing the government does takes place without a greater cost than benefit to society.
Knowing this, we can still be good citizens. We can be good parents, teachers, workers, entrepreneurs, church members, students, and contributors to society in a million different ways. This is far more important to the future of liberty than anything else we do. We must regain our confidence in our capacity for self-governance. I believe this is happening already. The government’s wars will continue to fail, and I do not think that we should regret this. Even if the public sector cannot and will not prepare for a future of liberty, we can. Let us look for and work toward the triumph of liberty unencumbered by leviathan and its wars.
Lew really hit the ball out of the park on this one.
Eloquently, we need to start disassembling the Gooferment. One program at a time. We need to do it as quickly or as slowly as needed. Our decades long binge is going to leave a heck of a hangover. Some of us won’t survive it. We can’t realize that all the death, sorrow, pain, and treasure has been for naught. We left the path of liberty and have wound up in the brambles of socialism, fascism, and totalitarianism.
We should really that Presidents Clinton and Bush for showing us that power corrupts. And, as Acton said: absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Like the Law of Gravity, economics is going to bring down this house of cards.