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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Grover Norquist is Partially Right


Statists are ecstatic over the fact that a few Republican members of Congress are turning their backs on the no-tax-hike pledge they signed at the request of GOP activist Grover Norquist. Overjoyed by the fact that the welfare-warfare state might be able to plunder the American citizenry even more, the statists are overjoyed that the federal government might now have even more money at its disposal for welfare programs and warfare programs.

But the fact is that Norquist is right. The problem with the federal deficit is not the deficit. The problem with the federal deficit is federal spending, not the fact that the federal government isn’t taxing people enough.

The government is spending $1.3 trillion more than what it is bringing in with taxes. What’s the solution to this? The solution is to just slash $1.3 trillion dollars of spending. That’s the way to balance the expenditures with tax revenues.

Norquist is right — the worst thing that public officials can do is raise taxes as a way to close the gap between tax revenues and spending. Every dollar that is confiscated from the private sector damages people in society.

It is the private sector that is the productive sector. Standards of living rise only because of the wealth produced by the private sector.

The public (i.e., government) sector is the parasitic sector. It survives by confiscating wealth from the private sector. The more wealth that the public sector confiscates from the private sector, the lower the standard of living of the citizenry.

Norquist is right when he says that increasing tax revenues only encourages public officials to spend more than they were spending before. So, we end up with the worst of all possible worlds — higher taxes and higher spending.

The best thing that could happen to America is an immediate slashing of $1.3 trillion in federal spending. Oh, sure, the statists would go ballistic over such a notion. They would call that going off a gigantic cliff, suggesting that America would die with such drastic expenditure cuts.

What nonsense. They say the same thing about places like Cuba and North Korea, where about 99 percent of the citizenry work for the public sector, a sector that confiscated all private wealth a long time ago. The North Korean people are starving to death and the Cuban people are on the verge of starvation.

What’s the solution to Cuba and North Korea? It’s a no-brainer for us libertarians. We would say: Lay off 99 percent of public employees, leave economic enterprise free of government regulation, control, licenses, and permits, abolish all welfare programs, including their version of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, dismantle the standing army, and leave people free to keep everything they earn. Push the button: Do it immediately, all at once.

There would immediately be the greatest outburst of creative energy that people could ever imagine. The starvation would disappear. Standards of living would start to rise.

But the statists in Cuba, North Korea, and the United States would go ape over that libertarian solution. “Don’t do it!,” they would scream. “You’ll go over the cliff! You will have unemployment. People will die in the streets. The solution is to just raise taxes, keep spending and borrowing, and printing paper money. That will produce growth and put people to work. Your welfare-warfare state can still be saved. Happy days will be here again.”

What economic idiocy. There is no private sector in North Korea and Cuba. It’s been taxed and confiscated out of existence. That’s why people are starving or on the verge of starvation. Freeing them from having to work in the parasitic sector would restore them to the private sector, the productive sector.

It’s no different in principle here in the United States. People who are currently on public largess would be cut off. They would be restored to the private sector, the productive sector. There would be a doubly positive effect: the people who were having their wealth confiscated from them to pay for the largess would now be free to keep their money, which means a higher standard of living for society. And those who were in the parasitic sector, living off the confiscated wealth, would now be in the private sector, the productive sector, which would mean an even higher standard of living for society.

So, Norquist is right: the solution to out-of-control federal spending is a drastic slashing of federal expenditures and no increase in taxes.

So, why is Norquist only partially right?

Because like other conservatives, he talks in terms of reducing federal expenditures rather than dismantling the welfare-warfare programs that the spending and borrowing is funding. This is the moral blind spot that has long afflicted conservatives: They cannot see the fundamental immorality and wrongfulness of the entire welfare-warfare state way of life. The result is that while they want to reduce spending, they have no problems with keeping the programs in existence.

This is one of the major distinguishing characteristics of libertarians. We think in terms of moral principles. We say that it’s morally wrong for the government to forcibly take money from people in order to give it to other people. We say it’s wrong for the state to regulate peaceful activity.

So, we don’t just call for a reduction in federal spending that will necessarily leave such things as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, food stamps, foreign aid to dictators, the drug war, the occupation of Afghanistan, and the vast overseas military empire in existence, albeit in reduced form. We call for ending, repealing, and dismantling all welfare-warfare programs based on their fundamental immorality and wrongfulness, not just because they are also bankrupting America.

So, while Norquist and other conservatives, as well as liberals, operate within the welfare-warfare paradigm, we libertarians challenge that paradigm. That’s the real issue facing Americans: Should we continue with the statist experiment with socialism, interventionism, and imperialism, which are based on immoral principles and which are sending our nation down the road to destruction, or is it time to restore a free, peaceful, and prosperous society to our land by dismantling the immoral and destructive paradigm that statists have foisted upon our land?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.