The ABC/XYZ Rule of Runaway Government and How to End It.

Bresiger’s ABC/XYZ Law of Government: Even when governments are elected to do something that many people want, when the government is given the authority to do ABC, something bad eventually happens. In a few years, it becomes obvious that the government has gone far behind ABC, even though the voters only authorized for ABC. The government and its bureaucracies are now doing XYZ. There is no stopping their taxing, spending and regulating. Even many of the proponents of ABC are aghast.

The ABC/XYZ Law most definitely applies to right-wing as well as left-wing governments here in the states as well as in most advanced Western welfare states. (For instance, “conservative” republican presidents Reagan as well as both father and son presidents Bush did not close down federal cabinet departments despite all the rhetoric to the contrary).

In the modern era, limited government—a term that today sounds pre-historic at a time when governments try to do everything—under all major governing parties has inevitably morphed into leviathans. They become runaway governments that no one can seemingly control. That is why we often find out about spying, war-making and runaway spending ex post facto.

The Light Dims

So today the foundations of freedom—-the historic limitations of bills of rights and the policies of decentralization—-are withering away. How is it happening?

Generations of Americans, Europeans and other nations that once held to Western traditions have forgotten—or possibly never learned since many went to the notoriously bad state schools—the remarkable origins of liberty. They forgot or possibly never heard of the Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the story of the anti-imperialist free trade radicals in Victorian Britain (The Manchester School/Little Englanders), the accomplishments of the Renaissance, of ancient Rome and Greece. When you take something for granted, such as our Western heritage of liberty, you usually don’t appreciate it until it is lost.

We are losing liberty in America and Western Europe. We are ignoring the warnings of F.A. Hayek. We are traveling down “The Road to Serfdom.” That’s because many in the West now equate big government as the only road to freedom.

Many believe that the government should take over more and more of the economy; that it should protect us from everything, even if it means losing more and more of our liberties as well as more and more of our take home pay. Of course, this is not true of everyone, but it is true of more and more Americans and Europeans who subscribe to collectivist ideas although many still are repelled by the socialist label.

So why do so many of us implicitly accept more and more government? It is because to many in Western nations the loss of liberty doesn’t seem so bad. Indeed, the spectacle of periodic elections seems to lend legitimacy to this enslaving process, which reminds one of Hillaire Belloc’s book, “Servile State.”

And, more and more, this process is presided over not by men and women who succeeded in private life and wanted to give back through a term or two in public life, but by career pols. The latter lust for office. They know nothing else but winning the next election and using a current office as a stepping-stone to a higher one. A few years ago I depicted a public official of this type when I wrote an article on the career of Congressman Anthony Weiner.
(https://mises.org/library/real-problem-weiner)

Elections? What a Joke

And often these elections are farces—elections in which third or new parties are frozen out—elections that seem to result in no substantial change owing to the permanent government that is beyond elections. I speak of the bureaucracies and authorities staffed by civil servants who almost never can be fired. At some point these bureaucracies become perpetual. They enforce a kind of soft slavery on citizens. We grow used to them, even though we often have little idea of how they operate.

In New York City, for example, the decrepit subways are run by an authority, the MTA. Few people know anything. However, they do know that the authority spends a lot of their money, has its headquarters in the most expensive part of town and is always years behind in getting new lines operating. I speak of the infamous Second Avenue Subway.

But no one, including the elected officials who are supposedly the bosses of this and other authorities, seems to be able to do anything about the MTA’s lousy performance. Calls to privatize the functions of various authorities are dismissed by mainstream media as moonshine.

So this slow, relentless destruction of liberty, of government run-amok, continues. It becomes onerous as well as unaccountable. This was predicted long ago by Tocqueville who studied various democracies. Many people he warned—even in criticizing the excesses of paternal bureaucracy—would eventually learn to become comfortable with it.

Historical Amnesia

Today many defend the endless government bureaucracies by saying “that’s the way we have always done it ” or saying “we can’t go back,” although they tend to know little or nothing about the history of liberty. These people have forgotten the history of their country and other nations that once practiced limited government. They have forgotten the history of liberty, a history that includes restrictions on the power of all governments to spend and intrude into our lives, wallets and pocketbooks.

Perhaps even worse, many of these government entities now seek to dictate to us how we live, what we can eat and drink as well as where and how (Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s big gulp soda limitation idea in New York City was typical of this “we must save you from yourself” idea. By the way, Bloomberg is nominally a republican. Interestingly, his democrat successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, is a critic of many of Bloomberg’s policies. Still, he praised the big gulp plan).

Can telling us what to think be far behind this logical expansion of runaway government?

Indeed, with many Americans and with many others in Western countries, to question these bureaucracies, even to call for their reduction, can lead one to be labeled “an Enemy of the People.”

Tea party activists are often depicted in mainstream media as nothing but racists or other some other evil kinds of people. This usually happens without examining the essence of their criticism: Runaway government taking over more and more of our lives as well as more and more of our wealth. Ironically, their complaints come at a time when substantial discussion over the nature of government on the hustings has ended. That’s despite elections in which serious issues are supposedly debated.

And, regardless of whether the left or the right wins an election. limitless spending, regulation and welfare/warfare programs ensue. But so, too, in the American version of the leviathan, does endless preparation for war. And, in the XYZ version of the American warfare/welfare state, war becomes “the health of the state.” The state is not only bellicose, but its spending, taxing and spying are relentless in government after government. Who knows, GregoryBresiger.com could be added to some government snoop list under the Patriot Act.

We Have Questions About Your Income Taxes

One thinks, for example, of the politically motivated ways governments both left and right have used the considerable snooping authority of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). That’s an agency that can even spook members of Congress who in theory provide oversight. (W.E.Gladstone, four times prime minister and several times Chancellor of the Exchequer in Victorian England, warned that the income tax inevitably led to prying into peoples’ private lives. Abuse of liberty was unavoidable with an income tax. Gladstone tried and failed to end the income tax. The latter would be an accomplishment that today would delight tens of millions of tax-weary Americans. In the 1940s, libertarian Frank Chodorov, warned that the income tax, which had been rejected countless times in American history until its final approval as a constitutional amendment in 1913, was the “Root of All Evil.” It was the thing, he wrote, that made big government possible).

All these abuses, outrageous increases in spending and taxation happen even though so many governments come to office with promises of fiscal conservatism that are no more believable than a vow of chastity by the rock star Madonna, a Trump vow of modesty or almost any government’s promise of lower spending and taxes.

These governments never keep their promises.

Why?

They’re hemmed in by the outrageous actions of previous governments. Almost every budget is spoken for before it is ever put together. Most tax dollars have been committed before they come to Washington for welfare programs—entitlements that must always grow and grow and must be extended even to many people who could provide for themselves—or for more and more “defense” programs.

The latter inevitably lead to war or near war to bring our version of democracy to countries, whether they want it or not. With wars, one can’t even calculate the final costs—both economic and moral. Wars’ human costs never end for millions of people and their families.

(Note: Here is another example of the ABC/XYZ rule. Almost no reasonable person opposes hunting down terrorists. That’s ABC. However, a reasonable person should reject any nation’s attempts to remake the world in its image; to act as the self-appointed policeman of the world. That’s an example of XYZ).

Classical Liberalism RIP?

With wars, welfare programs and endless social engineering, the classical liberal idea of liberty—the peaceful enjoyment of property under law, a de-centralized society in which government is primarily small and local, a philosophy that represents the best chance to preserve freedom—dies as an intellectual class often subjects it to endless contempt.

Capitalism and the idea of private property are put on trial in the media; hauled before a kangaroo court of public opinion and subjected to drum head court martial by most intellectuals as predicted by the economist Joseph Schumpeter in the 1940s classic “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.”

Is there any chance to restore the noble ideas of limited government; to reverse the ABC/XYZ philosophy? I will discuss that in a future segment.

About The Author

Gregory Bresiger

Gregory Bresiger is an independent business journalist from Queens, New York. His Personal Finance articles have appeared in publications such as The New York Post & Financial Advisor Magazine. He is the author of the eBooks “Personal Finance For People Who Hate Personal Finance” and “MoneySense”.