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Why Not Abolish the Nonessentials?


The pomp and ceremony surrounding George W. Bush’s nomination of new department heads is now complete. The discussion and debate now center around the qualifications of each of the new nominees. But who is asking the crucial question: Rather than appointing the best-qualified people to run the various departments, why not simply abolish the departments themselves?

After all, wasn’t this what the much-vaunted Republican Revolution of 1994 was all about? Having won control over both houses of Congress, didn’t Republicans tell us that they intended to abolish the departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, and a host of other nonessential departments and agencies of the federal government? Didn’t they tell us that the time had come to dismantle, not reform, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society?

Alas, it was the revolution that fizzled before it even got started. And what was the excuse the Republicans gave us for their failure even to pursue their goals? “President Clinton will simply veto our bills and so we shouldn’t even try. O! if only we had a Republican president!”

Well, with the upcoming Republican control over both houses of Congress and with a Republican president, why not start planning to do some abolishing and dismantling now? Why not seize this rare opportunity to rid our nation of immoral and destructive welfare-state and regulatory programs, along with the heavy taxes that pay for them?

Why do we need such departments as HUD, HHS, Labor, Energy, and Commerce? All they do is receive and spend money that has been taken from the taxpayers by the Internal Revenue Service (another one that deserves the chopping block ) and interfere, through regulation, with the peaceful activities of the American people.

Thus, I ask again: why are they needed? Why is it necessary (and moral) for government to take money away from people to whom it belongs in order to have bureaucracies give it to people to whom it does not belong? Why is it necessary (and moral) for government to interfere with the mutually beneficial, peaceful relationships that exist between people?

In arguing for a tax cut, Bush says that people should be able to spend more of their own money. Well, if it’s really *their* money (which it is), why shouldn’t they be free to spend all of it rather than just a portion of it? Why should government have the power to decide how much of their money they will be permitted to keep and spend on themselves and how much bureaucrats will be able to spend in the form of political largess?

For decades, Republicans and conservatives have relied on their tried-and-true mantra of “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” You can see it on their stationery. You can hear it at their conferences.

But what they never do (and cannot do) is reconcile their free-market bromides with their support of nonessential departments, agencies, and bureaucracies of government that have proven so destructive to the liberty and well-being of the American people.

After all, let’s face it: these nonessential welfare-regulatory departments are nothing more than a classic embodiment of the socialistic central-planning paradigm that has failed all over the world: government bureaucrats planning, in a top-down, command-and-control fashion, the peaceful activities of tens of millions of people.

Unfortunately, like so many people around the world, President-elect Bush believes that the secret to making central planning succeed is to find “good people” to run the departments. In so doing, he, like so many others, fails to come to grips with the uncomfortable truth: the defects of central planning are inherent in the socialist paradigm itself. No one, not even Americans, is capable of making central planning succeed.

So, what’s the alternative? The alternative is “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” Abolish all nonessential welfare-state, regulatory departments and agencies at all levels of government and let the free market provide and govern education, housing, charity, religion, labor relationships, commerce, energy and all other peaceful activities in our lives. In other words, what Republicans need to do is apply the principles of freedom and free markets rather than just preach them.

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    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.