Liberal Wrongheadness on Greece

In his column yesterday, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman demonstrates how wrongheaded liberal thinking on economics can be.

Pointing to the fiscal problems being experienced by Greece, Krugman correctly points to the core of the problem: excessive spending and borrowing by the Greek government. Although he doesn’t point out that all that spending and debt is to pay for the ever growing expenditures of Greece’s welfare state, at least he recognizes that a government can spend and borrow too much. Indeed, he even recognizes that the situation can become so dire that investors don’t want to invest anymore in a government’s bonds because they fear a default, which is precisely what is now happening in Greece.

But then Krugman goes awry, finding another culprit to blame for Greece’s debacle: deflation or even “excessively low inflation.”

What he’s alluding to is that because Greece doesn’t have control over its money supply, the Greek government cannot do what the American government and other governments do to pay off excessive debt — simply print the money and paying off creditors in debased dollars.

Krugman says that one possible solution to Greece’s problems is to slash spending and raise taxes. But of course slashing spending would involve major reductions in welfare benefits for the Greek citizenry, who are, by the way, protesting against any reductions in their dole. They take the same position as American dole recipients: that they have a right to their dole, come hell or high water, even if the government doesn’t have the money to continue paying them their dole. As Krugman observes, raising taxes will put more businesses out of business, raising unemployment and thereby aggravating the overall problem.

Krugman suggests that another possible solution is to have other European countries guarantee Greece’s bonds. But as he suggests, German taxpayers are not excited about having their money taken from them so that Greek taxpayers can continue receiving their “free” welfare state dole.

So, the obvious solution to his quandary, one that the American government’s Federal Reserve has long used, is simply to crank up the printing presses and pay off all that debt in depreciated, debased currency.

But there’s one big problem, one that Krugman deeply laments: Since Greece is part of the eurozone, it doesn’t have the power to crank up the printing presses without the approval of the other EU countries, which are not likely to want to debase the euro for the sake of saving the welfare state dole for Greek citizens.

That leaves Greece with the option of withdrawing from the eurozone and resorting to its own monetary system. But as Krugman points out, that might not be successful given that would likely be a rush of people to get their money out of the banks, along with a refusal by investors to buy bonds issued in the new currency.

Needless to say, Krugman deeply laments the inability of the Greek government to inflate itself out of the crisis. Never mind that paying off creditors in debased currency constitutes an intentional default. That doesn’t seem to bother Krugman one whit. All that matters, obviously, is that the Greek welfare state be saved from collapse.

Unfortunately, by not surprisingly, Krugman draws the wrong lesson for America from this Greek tragedy. He says that while the American government needs to be “fiscally responsible,” it should also “steer clear of deflation, or even excessively low inflation.”

In the final analysis, Krugman gets it wrong. What has collapsed in Greece is the welfare state, and hanging on to this anchor is what is sending Greece to the bottom of the ocean.

Americans need to take what has happened in Greece as a warning: Get off the dole road before it’s too late. Dismantle and repeal (that is, don’t reform or reduce) all welfare (and warfare) programs and departments, along with the taxes that support them.

Moreover, don’t do what the Federal Reserve has done for decades — that is, don’t inflate. In fact, abolish the Fed, America’s engine of inflation, and restore sound money to America.

This story first appeared on Hornberger’s Blog, The Future of Freedom Foundation, April 9, 2010.

Will the Looted Just Shrug?

The statist reaction to Republican senator Jim Bunning’s temporary block of a welfare bill shows what the welfare state has done to the American people.

Everyone knows that federal spending is out of control. The feds are spending $1.4 trillion more than what they’re collecting in taxes. And that’s just for this year.

Where are they getting the difference? They’re borrowing it, adding to the massive and ever-growing debt of the federal government. How is that debt going to be paid off? By American taxpayers. Your individual, average share as of right now is about $40,000. It’s growing every day because the feds are running up your credit card, which has no limit.

So, Bunning blocks a welfare bill on the ground that the federal government shouldn’t be borrowing any more money. If it can’t afford to be providing the welfare, Bunning said, then it shouldn’t be spending more money.

The statist crowd went ballistic. The attacks were the standard ones whenever anyone objects to any welfare state scheme: “He’s selfish, self-centered, and greedy. He hates the poor and loves the rich. He’s just grandstanding. The bill is only a small percentage of total spending and so it doesn’t make any difference in the larger scheme of things.”

But the statist reaction to Bunning’s move goes much deeper than that and is a perfect reflection of what the socialistic welfare state has done to the American people. Having been born and raised under the welfare state, American recipients of welfare largess, including those on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, education grants, mortgage guarantees, and bailout and stimulus monies, honestly believe that they are entitled to continue receiving it for as long as they “need” the money.

That’s why they call much of this junk an “entitlement.” What the entitlement crowd is saying is: “I am entitled to your money because I want it and I need it. If you object, my statist associates and I will go on the attack against you and expose you for being a vicious, no-good, selfish hater of the poor and lover of the rich.”

This is what the welfare state has done to America. It has produced a real war among the American people — between those who produce and own their wealth and those who are trying to get their hands on other people’s money through the force of the state. The nineteenth century French legislator Frederic Bastiat put it well when he indicated that under the welfare state, the government becomes a great fiction by which some people try to live at the expense of other people.

Almost as bad has been what the welfare state has done to the mindsets of the American people. It has made so many Americans dependent on the government, not just financially but also emotionally and psychologically. People are on the dole have convinced themselves that they could never survive without their dole. And they absolutely freak out whenever someone talks about ending their dole. Even worse, they look upon the government as their daddy or, even worse, as a beloved deity.

What is happening, not only here in the United States but in Greece, Portugal, Spain, England, and other welfare state countries, is that there isn’t enough wealth among the taxpayers to plunder to fund the massive, ever-growing number of people on the dole.

Meanwhile, panicky over the potential crack up of the welfare state, liberals are blaming the economic woes on “freedom, deregulation, greed, the bankers, and free enterprise,” and they’re proposing their standard statist solution — more socialism and Keynesianism. They’re saying that the feds should just keep spending, spending, and spending, no matter how much they have to borrow or inflate to do so. The notion is that more spending will put unemployed people back to work, whose taxes can then fund the voracious and ever-growing wants of the parasitic sector of society.

But as we libertarians have been saying for decades, ultimately the welfare state house of cards is going to crack apart, just as it did in Cuba and the Soviet Union. God has created a consistent universe, one in which immoral means will beget bad ends. The crack up has obviously already begun in such heavy-duty welfare state countries as Greece, Portugal, Spain, and England, where the base of wealth to plunder and loot is more limited than it is in the United States.

But even here in the United States there is a limit to how much socialism the private sector can bear. And don’t forget: there is always the possibility that those who are being plundered and looted might just decide to go on strike, refusing to produce any more wealth and just “shrugging.”

This story first appeared on Hornberger’s Blog, The Future of Freedom Foundation, March 4, 2010.