“A robber who justified his theft by saying that he really helped his victims, by his spending giving a boost to retail trade, would find few converts; but when this theory is clothed in Keynesian equations and impressive references to the ‘multiplier effect,’ it unfortunately carries more conviction.” 

– Murray N. Rothbard, “Anatomy of the State” 

Allow me to begin with an unpopular truth: you are not entitled to a job or a certain standard of living. 

Your needs do not give you a right to anyone else’s life. 

To receive charity or an opportunity is one thing, but to regard one’s needs as legitimate claims on the lives of others is to court tyranny and pervert justice. Though you are free to pursue a job or create your own opportunities, it is not the role of the government in a free society to ensure your livelihood. 

Yet, Americans seem to believe the opposite, trained for generations now to conjure up an endless list of needs and grievances as the primrose path to power, agency, wealth, and liberation. Of course, such a path is nothing but a blind alley toward destruction, one that only guarantees success to a privileged predatory elite at the expense of everyone else’s liberty and prosperity. 

Government at its best is meant to protect against invasions of persons or property. Government at its worst always invades persons and property in the name of defense.

For every job provided or livelihood protected by the government, directly or indirectly, someone else must pay the price. To protect, the government must always prey upon some other subject. To provide, the government must always exploit some other guy. Indeed, when the collective need masquerades as a basis for justice, the government will be swift to brand individual liberty as the enemy of the people, rationalizing its predation in the name of provision and protection.

Protection from what? It doesn’t matter. Any need will do. Any perceived fright will suffice. Inequality, inefficiency, or instability – take your pick. Once the government becomes the guarantor of jobs and a certain standard of living, any justification – moral, scientific, or otherwise – will be authorized. 

Just look at American governments today, national, state, or municipal. As Joe Biden showcased years ago, that “three letter word, J-O-B-S, jobs” is a potent political issue used by Democrats and Republicans alike to court voters. The economy continues to be thoroughly politicized, as Frederic Bastiat’s adage still applies: “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” 

Rather than looking at a given inflation metric or quarterly jobs report with a sound economic eye – tracing the unseen factors and consequences of a given action – the political set (including Keynesian and monetarist court economists) view economic data points as symbolic flashpoints, a great series of fictions, or as scientific experiments meant to be honed, engineered, and steered in order to stir the populace into this or that political action. A Consumer Price Index report isn’t just another data point; it’s a chance to spin the political narrative in favor of one’s preferred position while showing off one’s latest clever equations that impress without ever proving much of anything.

In his 2013 book “The Great Deformation,” former Congressman and Reagan Office of Management and Budget director, David Stockman reveals how the government’s budget became an infernal jobs machine:

Once the old-time balanced budget rule was discarded and the federal budget was turned into a tool of economic stabilization, the fundamental process of fiscal governance was thrown out of kilter. Every spending program and every feature of the revenue code became a ‘jobs’ program and a tool of countercyclical macro-management.”

[T]he Keynesian framework transformed the budget into a type of macroeconomic plumbing system under which spending programs and tax expenditures became mere conduits through which to pump dollars into the economy. Such flows would compensate for the alleged shortfall of ‘aggregate demand,’ according to the classic Keynesians, or spur underinvested and incentive-deprived sectors of the economy, according to the ‘business lite’ Keynesians.

In either case, politicians became immersed in logrolling among claimants for tax relief or spending increases to spur output and jobs. Meanwhile, their comprehension of the dollars and cents of budgeting was overwhelmed by a cavalcade of spurious economic justifications.

In a process that was subtle, cumulative, and inexorable, the federal budget was thereby captured by the forces of special interest lobbies and crony capitalism. Once the latter occupied the moral high ground and could argue that in raiding the treasury they were actually serving the public good of more jobs and more growth, the frail fiscal defenses of popular democracy were easily demolished.

As long as we Americans continue to court government robbers and their crony robber barons for our daily bread, believing their supposedly moral or scientific justifications, we will continue to eat away at our freedom and prosperity. And in the name of satisfying our needs, we will never be satisfied.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email joeyclarklive@gmail.com. Follow him on X @TheJoeyClark or watch the radio show livestream.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com

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