Opinion | Paul Olson: Tempting the voters with more government
It is July 5, 1945, election day in the U.K. — Winston Churchill and the Conservative Party have led Great Britain through brutal World War II. Nazi Germany had surrendered just two months before. Britain was still was battling Japan, and Churchill was engaged in tense negotiations with the Soviet Union about the post-war governance of Europe. British voters expressed their thanks to the Conservatives by giving the Labor Party an overwhelming majority in Parliament.
British voters had been offered wonderful new social programs by the Labor Party, including national health care, a commitment to full employment, low-cost housing and social security. The Labor Party and the voters ignored that Britain was bankrupt, having received $31 billion in war supplies from the United States in the Lend-Lease Act and still needing to borrow $3.75 billion more from the U.S. in 1946. The Labor Party added more risk by nationalizing industries that made up about 20% of the nation’s economy. Citizens soon recognized their folly and put the Conservatives back in charge in 1951.
The $23 trillion U.S. economy is quite healthy but it is burdened by $30 trillion in national debt. This debt requires expensive annual interest payments and hinders the federal government from fixing Medicare and Social Security or introducing other worthwhile social programs without raising taxes. The national debt came from many years of citizens asking for more and politicians not considering how this wish list would be funded.
On May 14, the Summit Daily News published a list of some of the bills passed by the Colorado State Legislature this spring. At first glance many of the bills seem to have merit and are not too expensive, but when you put hundreds of bills together there is a great increase in spending and regulation. Every one of these bills was introduced by a legislator who sincerely wanted to improve Colorado in some way and please constituents back home. It is difficult to stop the momentum of politicians trying to improve things.
Summit County and Colorado have primary elections on June 28 and the final contests Nov. 8. The candidates know that voters love grand promises so it is important that we are skeptical. These proposals usually emphasize the benefits of the new government program or law but are very short on detail about how it will be paid for or the possible downside. Republicans and Democrats tend to be equally negligent in this regard whether in Colorado or in Washington. I suggest you favor the politicians who promise less and who emphasize prudent management of the government budget.
There is nothing wrong with increasing spending for something that will potentially have a significant benefit to the economy and society, but the proposal needs to present a clear plan of how it will be managed and funded. As an example of good fiscal management, the various governments in Summit County have made a commitment to support a substantial increase in affordable housing and child care to address our severe shortage of workers. This local effort contrasts with much of the questionable legislation from Washington in that the Summit County plans have broad citizen and business support due to economic necessity and the local governments have been transparent about the cost and how it will be funded.
Another caution when considering candidates is to be wary of those who overstate the influence of the government on the economy. The prosperity of our community and nation are due to our free market economy and the innovation of individual businesses. Our economy is continuously adjusting supply and demand to deal with problems that may arise. Free market capitalism functions best when there is little government intervention. Favor candidates who do not push for the government to “do something” whenever things are not going as smoothly as we would like.
There is an excellent interview with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in the July issue of libertarian Reason Magazine. Polis emphasizes his belief that many decisions such as education, marijuana regulation and COVID policy are best made on the local level where government officials are most in touch with community sentiment. His attitude toward government regulation is summed up by his statement, “… when you make something illegal, it doesn’t mean it goes away.”
Polis favors lowering state income taxes because he says it is not good to tax productivity. Gov. Polis understands the importance of making use of the best ideas for governing regardless of which political party proposes them.
Just a few decades ago the Colorado legislature and Congress were full of moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans and there was much more bipartisanship. Now party loyalty seems to be more important than cooperating for the good of the people. In the upcoming elections, choose common sense candidates who vow to deliver good governance instead of just promising more government.
Paul Olson’s column “A Friendly Conservative” publishes biweekly on Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Olson has lived in Breckenridge since 1995. Semiretired, he works at REI in Dillon and enjoys snowboarding, Nordic skiing and hiking. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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