Friday, February 06, 2004

Government Spending Erodes Freedom
Tuesday I wrote that increases in federal spending as far as the eye can see are bad, not just for the economy, but also for our personal freedom. Coincidentally, Lance Izumi picked up the same topic at TNR. It seems that Bush is aware that taxes are bad for the economy, but he doesn't get that spending is bad for freedom by encouraging dependency and passivity. He relies extensively on Friedman and Hayek.

For Friedman, taxation and spending policies are not ends in themselves, but rather the " means to the ultimate objective of increasing the freedom of the individual to use their resources in accordance with their own values — as President Reagan put it, to get government to get off our back."

In his famed book Road to Serfdom, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, Hayek warned that when government seeks to impose specific effects on people, "It must, of necessity, take sides, impose its valuations upon people and, instead of assisting them in the advancement of their own ends, choose the ends for them." Hayek further observed "that the most important change which extensive government control produces is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people."

An expansionist government, even in the pursuit of noble causes, reduces freedom. That's why the current federal spending spree isn't just a budget issue, but a freedom issue. Given the unrest among his conservative base, President Bush must rediscover the importance of limited government to the maintenance of a free people and the promotion of a free society.

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