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 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 task of reversing ABC/XYZ is huge.
Indeed, it is possibly too big for any one generation of men and women who love liberty and aim to restore the traditions of limited government. We are confronting generations of welfare/warfare policies that have been accepted and embraced by tens of millions of people in the West. But many of these people, who have supported collectivist policies, have a weak foundation: They have done so because they know no better.
But here are some guidelines to reversing the tyranny of the ABC/XYX leviathan
Is it fair to keep adding to the debt of a country until it is an unspeakable amount? It is not. The advertised figure of some $15 trillion or so of US debt—the accumulated deficits of all the budget red ink of our government—isn’t even an honest estimate as numerous economists and others told me in a story I did some years ago.
The government and its subsidiaries often engage in Enron accounting. They spend money off budget and don’t count it. So begin by balancing the federal budget in the next budget. Insist that your government—whether right wing or left wing—live within its means as do most responsible people who read this blog.
Here’s one way to start.
At the outset of each session of Congress, or parliament, an independent agency establishes how much money lawmakers can spend in that session and have a balanced budget.
How the money is spent—whatever the amount—is an issue of political philosophy that is debated. But all parties should agree at the outset of a session—this is what we have to spend and not a penny or centavo more. And no cheating: printing money to get out of a corner by debasing the currency in the process. You live within your means. Why can’t the government do so?
In another era it could do so. British Prime Minister Gladstone went around Number 10 Downing Street putting out lights and cutting down on waste. He thought that all extra money should not be spent. It should be returned to the taxpayers (What a concept!). Significantly, Gladstone, in his fourth and last ministry, resigned because he opposed outrageous naval spending. He thought the cabinet had gone mashuggah (And also because, as a man of justice, he had tried and failed to bring home rule to Ireland, which like Canada and other British dominions, wanted greater control of its destiny).
One reason why one lives within one’s means is that the person, or couple, stops superfluous spending. Here in the states, as our leviathan has grown, we have added numerous new cabinet levels departments over the last few years yet discontinued or consolidated none. That is despite President Reagan’s promise in 1980 to end the departments of Energy and Education; promises he never kept. The implication of our governing ABC/XYZ government philosophy is clear: We always need more government and can never cut or end anything.
Apparently, many Americans and Europeans believe we need every last department, commission and bureau of government. That must change if the ABC/XYZ philosophy is to end.
The government shouldn’t spend more and more. Therefore, one way to slow it is to have contraction hearings. Once, every decade, each department of government would be required to explain what it has been doing for the last 10 years. How did it spend the billions of dollars that it took from taxpayers? And what, exactly, have the taxpayers received in return, besides a lighter wallet?
If a department can’t justify its existence, if it can’t show that it is in fact making the lives of most taxpayers much better—and not just a special interest group that wants the rest of us to subsidize it—then it should be sent to the ash heap of history. I believe eliminating some departments will be essential to balancing the budget and bringing back spending sanity to our country. Actually, I believe lots of government agencies and their political appointees should be shown the door.
*Zero Based Budgeting.
Here’s how our spendthrift government budgeting process now works: A department comes to Congress for the fiscal year and tells it how big an increase it wants this year. Maybe it asks for 10 percent more over the previous fiscal year and possibly ends up getting eight percent more. It doesn’t get less. You can see why our government has a spending/deficit/debt problem, which of course leads to a higher taxes problem.
By the way, today, at the end of the fiscal year, if a government department has a lot left in its annual budget for last year, it often goes on an obscene spending spree. The leaders of the department want to convince Congress that it needed every cent it was given. This way it can set up Congress for a generous increase in the next fiscal year. It’s a disgrace; a slap in the face to the millions of people who work and work to keep Uncle Whiskers and his many minions well fed.
Change the process. Every department’s budget process should begin at zero. All spending should be justified each year. Think of it this way: Just because you spent a lot of money last year on something, do you assume that you do the same this year? Most responsible people do not. They are always shopping around for buys and they also seriously consider every major purchase and whether it can be delayed, found at a cheaper price or possibly avoided altogether.
If only our government functioned that way! But it is well nigh impossible when most lawmakers—who are career pols, who seem to have little understanding of the lives of their constituents in the private sector—-think their function is “to bring home the bacon to their districts” and ignore the big picture. That, of course, means I support your outrageous pork bill because you vote for my outrageous pork bill. The taxpayers end up paying for a lot of swine. In fact, it is usually so big a bill that it can’t be paid for in one generation. So we will pass it on to our children and their children.
*An Education in Liberty
Any of the above only works if we can remind the next generation of the fruits of liberty; how vital they are to potential prosperity and peace. Each of us must become teachers of freedom.
It is critically important each of us becomes educators for liberty; that we ensure that the next generation understands how precious liberty is and how easily it can be lost. We must also explain how difficult it was to achieve and how the traditions of liberty evolved in many countries not just because of one group or one generation; but as a result of many enlightened people of different cultures over centuries.
The problem with liberty and the benefits of limited government under law are that they require time and education. Those are things that stressed out Westerners often seem to have very little of, especially the latter if they attended our often egregious state schools.
Alexis de Tocqueville, one of the great friends of liberty, warned in his masterful “Democracy in America” that “the apprenticeship of liberty” is very difficult.
“Liberty is generally established in the midst of storms; it is perfected by civil discords; and its benefits cannot be appreciated until it is already old.”