Tag: spending

The Tyranny and Failure of Coercive Paternalism

By John Keller | United States

Coercive Paternalism can be defined as intervention in cases where people’s choices of the means to achieving their ultimate ends are confused. An argument of this nature, notably by Sarah Conly, rests on four main points: (1) Such a view promotes individuals actual goals. (2) Coercive Paternalism is effective. (3) The benefits are worth the cost. (4) Coercive Paternalism is efficient. Coercive Paternalism offers an ambiguous and unclear argument that ignores many of the complexities of the issues.

The Argument For Paternalism

A Coercive Paternalist would make an argument such as this: (1) People want to live long and healthy lives. (2) Eating processed foods and consuming drugs hinders people from living long and healthy lives. (3) Thus, the government must ban certain foods and drugs to promote the goal of the individual. Assuming the premise to be true, a rather noncontroversial claim, logically the next step is to examine the second step of the argument. Does consuming drugs hinder people from wanting to live long and healthy lives?

Examine, for instance, veteran suicide and veterans who deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Marijuana has been instrumental, if not vital, to veterans dealing with the mental complications involved with going into combat. By denying veterans drugs to promote the ‘individuals’ goals, they are actually exacerbating the mental complications of veterans and creating an environment in which veterans are forced to live shorter, mentally unhealthy lives as they tragically fall victim to the grip of suicide. Is this outcome the promotion of ‘long and healthy lives’? No, and thus Coercive Paternalism is unable to provide the needs of individual citizens.

The Failure of Coercive Paternalism

As it is unable to provide the needs of the individual citizens, it can not be effective. Paternalism itself is the idea in which the government must assume a role similar to that of your parent because the individual is inadequate to take of themselves and make good choices. Are any two individuals the same? Are any two children raised the same? Even siblings are often raised differently as a parent learns more, realizes mistakes, and adjust in real time to the needs of their children. The government, however, can not operate in this way on an individual level. Instead, they institute a policy under the basis of ‘one shoe fits all’. A clear example of this is common core education. With more money in the education system, improvement has been rare to come by. RealClear Education reports, “Between 2013 and 2017, only five jurisdictions logged improvements in 4th-grade math and just three in 8th-grade math.” As no two individuals develop the same, no government program can claim to be for the benefit of every citizen.

The theorized benefits of paternalism, that cannot apply to every citizen due to the nature of individuality, are not worth the cost. From 2013-2017, a total of $375,577,635,000 was spent federally, with an additional $840,757,185,970 spent in the same time frame by the states. In 2013, roughly 62,146,000 children went to school. That means that between 2013-2017, a total of $1,216,334,820,000 was spent on 62,146,000 school age children, or roughly $19,572.21 per student. As a result of paternalism, $1.2 trillion was spent to see only eight jurisdictions see an increase in math skills of America’s youth.

With the cost not being worth the near invisible benefits, Coercive Paternalism fails to also be effective. While it is not effective, it also fails to be efficient. Prohibition has historically failed to be efficient. The Eighth Amendment, passed in 1917 and ratified in 1919, was passed to prohibit the sales, transportation, importation, and exportation of “intoxicating liquors”, also known, more commonly, as alcohol. During the Prohibition Era, drinking remained constant. It is very likely that it not only stayed at the pre-prohibition levels but that drinking increased following the prohibition. When the government stopped sanctioning the legality of the alcohol industry and its services, it was forced to go into an underground state, run by speakeasies throughout the nation. The people reverted to the black market to get the products they desired, proving government regulation of the market to be inefficient. Furthermore, the government prohibition on the use of marijuana proved again to be a failure for the U.S government. Historically speaking, prohibition has always been ineffective.

Coercive Paternalism fails to promote the individual’s actual goals, is not effective, and is not worth the cost. The theory of Coercive Paternalism offers a simple answer to the complexities of society that fails to respect an individuals rights, needs, and the pursuit of happiness.


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Government Shutdowns and Debt Ceilings

Craig Axford | Canada

Government shutdowns and flirtations with default by putting off raising the federal debt ceiling have become regular occurrences in Washington, D.C. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised given the number of representatives and senators regularly expressing disdain for the very institution they were elected to run, but still.

Americans like to believe their nation is exceptional, and it is: it’s the only developed nation on the planet that doesn’t guarantee all its citizens healthcare, higher education is more expensive there than just about anywhere else, it has the only government that it’s possible to shut down without having to resort to violence, and it’s the only nation that flirts with suicide by requiring votes on its debt ceiling.

That’s right. No other governments have even one, let alone two, kill switches built into their system. And why would they? What’s the point? Unless the intent is to erode public confidence in government it makes no sense for elected officials to even contemplate closing down popular national parks or giving all the people in charge of enforcing our public health and safety regulations an extended unpaid holiday?

The habit of shutting down the government now and then (as well as the continuing resolutions passed to avoid them) is an unintended bug in the American system rather than a feature of it. So too is the necessity to authorize more borrowing periodically once the national debt has reached a predetermined threshold. Both of these bugs are extremely dangerous but, unfortunately, they are likely to remain unfixed for the foreseeable future.

America’s founding fathers were revolutionaries. As such, they were no fans of the British government, which by the late 18th century was already well established and quite recognizable to any citizen of the 21st century. Though King George III was the titular head of state, like his contemporary successor Queen Elizabeth II, he had very little actual power to match the privileges that came with his hereditary title. Parliament was already very much in charge.

Nothing like what took place in Philadelphia following the American Revolution had ever been seriously considered, let alone attempted, in London. To intentionally sit down and craft rules for a new government quite literally being built from scratch was a radical idea if ever there was one. To call America an experiment is not an exaggeration. As with any experiment, the outcome is unknown until it has come to a close. The American experiment hasn’t ended, but so far it certainly has produced some unanticipated results.

In creating the modern world’s first republic, America’s victorious rebels were faced with the task of establishing rules for a country that no longer had centuries of tradition to fall back on. The norms of the mother country they had just abandoned had evolved over hundreds of years of power struggles between the aristocracy and the crown, with a nascent merchant middle class increasingly making its own demands over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. The newly independent colonies wanted to distinguish themselves from the nation they had just liberated themselves from, but how?

The US Constitution settled for a president instead of a monarch, while the House of Representatives took the place of the House of Commons and the Senate stood in for the House of Lords. Each elected member of these respective branches is subject to regular fixed terms of office, with the power balanced more or less equally between them rather than resting largely in the representative branch (i.e., parliament) alone. With the exception of the extremely rare and difficult case of impeachment, the US Constitution provides no opportunity to hold any single officeholder accountable for failure during the period between elections, let alone the government as a whole. Federal judges receive lifetime appointments, something else not seen in any other developed representative democracy to this day.

In a parliamentary system, the failure to pass something as routine as an annual budget triggers a crisis. Under the Westminster parliamentary model followed in the UK, Canada and several other members of the Commonwealth, this crisis brings down the government and forces the monarch or her designated representative to dissolve the government and call an election. In unstable periods when minority governments are common, elections tend to be relatively more frequent, while in less turbulent political times a majority government can persist for five years or so before facing a vote.

Likewise, when a parliament authorizes spending beyond the government’s anticipated revenues, it is understood they have necessarily approved an increase in the national debt. Therefore, there is no need to consider raising the debt limit independently. From the perspective of citizens living in parliamentary countries, it makes no sense that the same Congress that approved deficit spending one month can spend time the next flirting with a refusal to allow any borrowing. It’s like having a government that doesn’t know its own mind.

Unfortunately, the kind of crises that bring down governments in parliamentary systems has become commonplace in the United States. Budgets go years without being approved, with Congress lurching from one continuing resolution to the next while various factions hold federal employees and the citizens dependent upon their services hostage until some pet project or favorite policy or another is approved in exchange for keeping things running for a while longer. A Prime Minister Donald Trump would either be facing a vote of the people at this point in the budget process or a leadership challenge by members of his own caucus. One year in office would be unlikely, but four would almost certainly be impossible.

I’ve been living in Canada for the better part of a decade now. On most days I find myself feeling pretty ambivalent about the monarchy if I even think about it at all. That’s not because I can see equal merit in both sides of the argument regarding having someone born into the role of head of state. It’s because I recognize all societies require a sense of continuity and for some countries that can take the shape of a monarchy that has existed in one form or another for centuries. A woman that appears on our money while playing an entirely ceremonial role is harmless, if not for the actual person forced into the job by an accident of birth then at least for the rest of us.

I’m not feeling so ambivalent about having a parliament, however. I have strong opinions about the two Canadian prime ministers I’ve lived under so far. But the extent of my approval or disapproval aside, at least I know that the nearby Pacific Rim National Park will, weather permitting, always be open and that with the exception of national holidays at the local Services Canada office the door will never be locked. Even the UK Brexit debacle hasn’t convinced me parliaments are less effective or ultimately less democratic than the divided governments that have become the norm in the US.

If for some reason, it turns out parliament can’t do its job there will be an election lasting a little over a month while the people try to vote one in with a sufficient mandate to do it. In the meantime, things will go on pretty much as before without any nightly news reports about government employees unable to pay the rent because someone got it into their head they wanted to build a wall. I know it’s incredibly unAmerican to say so, but if you were to put me in a time machine and send me back to 1776, I would tell the founding fathers to get rid of the monarchy if they must, but at least keep the parliament.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com


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Four Easy Ways to Rein in Federal Spending

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

The United States national debt currently stands at over $21 trillion. Such a number seemed improbable just 5 years ago. Despite such a clear lack of funds, Congress merely continues to create more government programs. This lack of fiscal responsibility will only lead the US into serious trouble in the future. With federal spending only increasing, it is now more than ever imperative that our congressmen step back and look at the negative consequences for long term debt.

Maintaining a large debt for a long period of time has several disastrous effects. The greatest danger, naturally, comes during a recession. In this case, foreign governments with U.S. Treasury bonds may not trust the U.S. to repay them. Thus, a foreign state may demand its loaned money back, which the United States may not be able to pay. The U.S.’s inability to pay back the amount could spark tensions, tariffs, embargoes, or even war.  

Rising debt also means that government will raise taxes more to cover the gap between revenue and expenses. By taking steps to fix the issue now, Congress can balance the budget and keep taxes lower. It is time for Congress to become fiscally responsible and limit federal spending. The process is not difficult, and through these four steps, Congress can be back on track towards federal spending sanity.

1. Close Overseas Military Bases

The US operates over 800 military bases around the world. Only 11 other nations have foreign bases, combining for a total of 70. The sheer number of bases is a clear indicator of the U.S.’s global policeman approach to foreign policy. If the government is to exist, it must focus on protecting the life, liberty, and property of its own citizens. 800 foreign bases are in no way essential to do this.

2. Cut Programs with Wasted Federal Spending

The United States, over the past century, has sought to maintain peace and stability around the world by solving regional conflict. However, as a result, the government has created countless programs that seek to promote American values in areas they are least likely to work. Ultimately, these programs are wasteful and unnecessary.

For example, the U.S. government built a natural gas station in Afghanistan for $43 million dollars. Afghans have no way of using this, because they do not have cars that use natural gas for fuel. Even if they did, the vast majority of them would not have the money to buy or use them. This project was illogical in design, but sadly it is only one of many. Cutting down on these ridiculous programs should gain bipartisan support. It also should not be very hard to implement. Thus, it is a great way to rein in spending.

3. Abolish the Post Office

The Post Office system is an incredibly inefficient quasi-business run by the U.S. government. This past year, USPS reported a $2.7 billion loss, while in the fiscal year of 2017, UPS, a private company, had a revenue of over $65.8 billion. These statistics show us that, in this industry at least, the private sector is much more able than the state. The reason for this, of course, is that a private company has an incentive to make money.

A government-run business like the Post Office can never shut down due to bankruptcy. They can simply get more money from the state, increasing debt. On the other hand, if a private business remains unprofitable for long enough, they will go bankrupt. This “drive to survive” of the private sector also leads to innovation and improvements. This keeps a business competitive in its field, as opposed to a state program, which has no incentive to improve. Private companies must constantly improve to retain their customers, while government corporations will always be around no matter the financial loss they are suffering. It’s time to abolish the Post Office and allow more efficient companies to take its place.

4. End Foreign Aid Programs

Foreign aid programs are yet another example of policies that seek to benefit other states at the expense of our own. The U.S. government’s primary concern should be with the well being of its own citizens, and not with that of other nations’.

Tragically, foreign aid programs often fail to work. Many times, regional warlords obtain the money as soon as the U.S. drops it off. Aid rarely reaches those that need it the most, and in fact often helps those that oppress the needy. Private charity must replace foreign aid. Knowing the money they have is both precious and finite, a private charity often makes a greater effort to ensure that aid ends up in the right hands.

The U.S. may achieve all of these proposed solutions to rampant government spending quite easily. As all are common sense methods, they all, save the last, should receive bipartisan support. They also would not require a lot of legislation to implement. The U.S. must make a serious effort to reign in federal spending to avoid a debt crisis, and these four solutions are a great place to start.


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Keynesian Economics: A Misleading Policy

By Jack Parkos | United States

Imagine a kid doing chores for his parents. One day there isn’t a lot for him to do, so the parents make a huge mess for him to clean up. Does this make sense? Of course not. But, this logic is similar to the Keynesian school of economics. Keynesianism has taken over both American parties and severely hurts the economy.

What is Keynesian Economics?

During The Great Depression, economist John Maynard Keynes developed a new school of economic thought. He hoped that his Keynesian economics would bring an end to the decade’s stagnant economy. Keynes’s theory focuses on demand-side economics. Keynesian economics asserts that a mixed-market economy will be the most successful in the long run.

Governments employ this by increasing both spending and the money supply. Keynesians would argue that the government should spend on programs such as infrastructure in order to boost the economy.

The Critical Flaw: Increased Spending

Despite such common adherence, Keynesian economics has a number of key problems. The first of which deals with spending increases. The money for this spending must come from somewhere, and it usually lands on the taxpayers. Otherwise, US debt levels just increase even more.

The wealthy, who play a key role in economic growth, often see the worst of tax hikes. The government taxes those who provide jobs and products, then uses for the money on a bridge, for example. The idea here is that government created jobs and a product. However, they only did so by robbing the same opportunity from a private company, which is more likely to use the money more efficiently to provide a greater number of jobs and better services. Allowing all classes of wealth to have more disposable income will simply lead to more economic growth.

Keynesian Economics and Government Monopolies

Keynes often criticized the free market, claiming it created monopolies. But government is also capable of doing this. In fact, the creation of monopolies is a huge fault of Keynes’s theory. A government, with its reckless spending, can easily create monopolies and ruin private businesses, which only spend more if profits increase.

On the other hand, the government has a tax farm of millions of citizens. Thus, it can take money from any one of them, or simply print more of it. For example, Keynesian economics would have the government spend more on infrastructure. But what happens to the companies that the state does not fund? They will likely lose business, even though they may be the best ones for the job.

On the other hand, government services are usually subpar and inefficient. There are just some things government can’t provide that the market can. Government is not meant to produce, it is meant to protect rights. A business owner, to keep customers, has to make an effective product or service. This forces him or her to improve the quality of service.

State services simply do not work the same way. Don’t like the service? Too bad. They don’t need to rely on supply and demand. Rather, they can tax people or drive further into debt and provide a subpar service. We have established that under Keynes’s model, there will be more state services. This will be an atrocity! Instead, the state should seek to lower taxes and lower spending in order to improve the economy.

The Danger of Increased Money Supply

The last and possibly the most dangerous part of Keynes’s model, increasing the supply of money. Simply printing out more money will not help the economy but will do the opposite, it will cause inflation which hurts the economy. This has happened a lot in history.

Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic

The most infamous example of this is 1920’s Germany.  The problem started when Germany abandoned its gold standard during World War 1. After the war, the Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to pay reparations that they simply could not afford. The government then printed out more marks to pay off these reparations, but this caused hyperinflation. Money became worthless to the point where Germans used it for kindling. Children would use paper money to make toys to play with. If someone went to the store with money to buy two loaves of bread, they would only be able to afford one by the time they arrived. In fact, by late 1923, 1 US Dollar was worth a staggering 4.2 trillion German marks. The German Mark was worthless.

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Of course, hyperinflation will not occur every single time money is printed. But history repeats itself with many other examples of hyperinflation. Zimbabwe also tried this and, like Germany, saw hyperinflation in its economy. Keynesian economics would suggest printing more money for the economy during times of recession. However, history shows this does not work.

The Keynesian School of economics suggests increasing spending, debt, and taxes. It also replaces market services with the government and calls for the risky activity of printing money. Most of the last century’s policies have been Keynesian. Without a doubt, they have raised taxes and sent the country further into debt. Hope, however, is not lost. By looking towards more free-market schools of economics, the American people and state may create a freer and stronger economy.


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The National Debt Mess: How did we Get There?

Indri Schaelicke | United States

At the time of writing this, the US debt sits at $21.15 Trillion, and recent trends would suggest that our elected representatives do not care to step back, consider the potential disastrous effects, and reverse our course. How does such a large debt even come about? Let’s examine a few fundamental reasons.

Politicians give people what they want in order to win votes, but have no regard for what the budget can handle.

Over the course of the past year, many people have realized that nearly every facet of our lives is becoming increasingly politicized. The same is true of our budget creating process. Both parties make a show of what they wish to focus their spending on. Since the beginnings of the earliest political systems, the savviest politicians recognized that while campaigning for office one will be most successful if they tell their constituents what they want to hear. They can then promise a whole host of “free” programs, portraying government as the superhero that will save you from whatever affliction you face. Once in office, the politician will move to fulfill these promises, thereby expanding the scope of government and widening their base of supporters.

The public would be in uproar if the government taxed at the rate required to cover all spending.

In order to cover the cost of the programs that they wish to create, politicians would need to charge taxes at an incredibly high rate. There’s just one problem- no one wants to pay high taxes in order to get some “free” hand out from the government. They simply want their free healthcare. People want to have the cake, and eat it too. Politicians cater to this desire in order to secure votes, and the debt continues to grow.

As a libertarian, I support a dramatic reduction in government spending and seek to end our federal government debt. There are a few reasons I support this:

The more the state spends, the more control over our lives they have.

Government spending increases the size of the bureaucracy, creating more and more agencies that have a say in the way I live my life. Don’t you think I can manage my life better than an unelected official sitting at a desk in Washington DC, who knows nothing about me?

I don’t believe in coercion and wealth redistribution policies.

No one should have to pay for someone else’s birth control, for example. I say we lower tax rates for everyone, and minimize government influence in our daily life (cut spending),  allowing people to make decisions for themselves. No one knows how you should live your life better than you, so why pretend a government agent does?

However, knowing the tendency of both parties to oppose any spending cuts, a solution will have to be much more pragmatic. Fiscal conservatives must push for cuts to spending whenever they present themselves, such as when a bill comes up in committee, is being debated on the floor of their chamber or discussed in the public eye.

Ideally, fiscal conservatives who seek to end several agencies will be elected, as well as leaders in both houses of Congress who are committed to entitlement spending reform. Doing these two things will help us eliminate our debt.

I was driven to become a libertarian by being made aware of the government’s waste. I’m sure that a coherent message preaching the inefficiencies of the state would attract many more to the liberty movement.

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