Good Government

Patrick B. McGuigan | March 3, 2009

It's Our Liberty, Stupid

Patrick B. McGuigan

A few years back, Justice Antonin Scalia said of a bad U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion: "Most bad precedents come as a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing. This one comes as a wolf."

That aptly describes my feelings about the grotesquely mischarac-terized federal "stimulus" package recently signed into law.

Let it be renamed "reinvestment" or "recovery" spending until Hell freezes over, it is Big Government, pure and simple. Already too big and too dominant in the economy, government is about to get more so.

I oppose these "stimulus" ideas our new president has advanced because I believe in personal liberty and limited government. For me and millions of others, this particular program is a wolf in wolf's clothing.

Our president can lecture, in his best voice, about the need to "do something" and wag his finger at those who cling to historically tested beliefs about free markets and free people. As for me and my house, we choose the American way of life rooted in economic vibrancy, justice, limited government, and practical policies.

President Obama delivered a cautious and subdued Inaugural Address in which he consciously linked himself to the nation's first president. But now, by his actions, our new president has put himself outside the mainstream of the history represented by George Washington and most of those who came after him and before Barack Obama.

The expansion of government spending Obama allowed Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to craft with no input from the minority party has little to do with stimulus. The president has managed to make his predecessor's poorly conceived and horribly ill-advised financial "bailout," dissected on this page just four months ago, appear moderate in comparison. That in itself is astonishing.

It is likely that this determination in Congress to delay an economic day of reckoning will lay the basis for years, perhaps decades, of 1970s-style "stagflation" -that odd combination of price accelerations amid a weakening dollar, high unemployment, reduced productivity, and political endorsements of class warfare.

Coming to a capitalist nation near you: A dramatic shift toward European-style socialism. That is not hyperbole; it is descriptive of the heart of this so-called stimulus.

A grand experiment in democratic capitalism and republican governance, always a work in progress and open to improvement, unified the founding generations and bound Americans increasingly to one another over the first two centuries of our history. As the voting franchise expanded, racism eroded, and waves of prosperity followed every economic downturn. The future seemed brighter each generation.

There really was a common thread, often tested, in the philosophies of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, of Robert Taft and Paul Tsongas, of Ronald Reagan and Joe Lieberman, of Clarence Thomas and Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, all of that is at risk and "in play."

Perhaps Oklahoma can fashion a successful alternative model of governance and comparative economic vitality, awaiting a day of lessons relearned and fundamental wisdom reaffirmed.

Patrick B. McGuigan

Independent Journalist

A member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, Patrick B. McGuigan is founder of CapitolBeatOK, an online news service, and editor of The City Sentinel, an independent newspaper. He is the author of three books and editor of seven, and has written extensively on education and other public policy issues.

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