By Adam Mill • The Federalist
Recently, Jesse Kelly wrote a worthy article forecasting the United States’ decline and eventual suffocation in the quicksand of socialism. He correctly notes that as government gets bigger, freedom must get smaller.
Kelly clearly fears a socialist America will follow the failures of Greece, Venezuela, and every other country that has followed a welfare state model to its logical conclusion. While he is absolutely right that economic failure and socialism are inexorably related, he is not correct that the United States is on an unstoppable path to this oblivion.
Take cheer, Kelly: we have reason to be optimistic as a result of President Trump’s brief but dazzling experiment with cutting taxes and regulation. While government is growing, it’s not growing fast enough to crowd-out all freedom. One byproduct of the Trump boom is that economic growth is actually outpacing growth in government spending. The government’s share of gross domestic product has fallen to 38 percent from nearly 44 percent during the dark days of the Great Recession, and is forecasted to continue to decline. This is in line with the Ronald Reagan presidency.
The improving economy has turned millions of welfare recipients into taxpayers. Food stamp participation has declined from 46,500,623 participants in 2014 to 41,513,029 participants today. That’s an astonishing decline in people looking to the federal government for their source of food. Meanwhile, the decline in labor participation has stabilized and even rebounded from 62.3 percent in 2015 to around 62.7 percent today. This is more good news when you consider that baby boomers are retiring en masse and we’re adding to the workforce through immigration and reproduction.
Most promising, however, is the raw GDP growth rate of 4.7 percent. As a basis for comparison, only two years in the vaunted 1980s beat that number. If it happens two or three years in a row, the compound effect will be astonishing.
More jobs, more people working, fewer people taking government handouts. I see, not a cycle of doom, but a virtuous cycle. These new wage earners might not be so quick to vote for new taxes that separate the top of their paystub from that number at the bottom. Some dream of owning their own business or becoming rich. As recently as 2016, Americans still had a more favorable view towards capitalism than socialism.
There’s no disputing Kelly’s point that the fight for freedom is still underway. We have a moral duty to fight for economic and political freedom. A significant force in America strives to crush economic freedom in America as an obstacle to “fairness.” Increasingly, this justifies trampling the civil liberties of political opponents. For the moral case for economic freedom, one cannot do better than the words of Reagan. They remain fresh and relevant.
As Reagan pointed out, “If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.” Reagan added, “You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down: [up] man’s old — old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.”
The stairs to prosperity are paved with these freedoms. I remember when liberals supported civil liberties. Conservatives tend to champion economic freedoms. Authoritarians on both the right and left feel threatened by all freedoms, confiscating wealth and trampling individual liberty. Communism and Nazism are not opposites but brothers in common cause to oppress human freedom.
Reagan so clearly described the interplay between freedom from government regulation and prosperity when he told us, “What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the — or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.”
Now is the time to renew the moral argument for capitalism as a new generation emerges from liberals’ failed experiment to recover from the Great Recession. From 2008 until 2016, liberal theory spectacularly failed to materialize a viable recovery as trillions of dollars in stimulus washed over the United States in a tidal wave of nothing. In contrast, a short 20-month period of allowing American business to taste a little regulatory freedom and tax relief have led to a hiring and investment binge that makes us feel the ghost of the Gipper walks among us.
Perhaps this is exactly why we see so much ink spilled distracting from President Trump’s successes with Russian fairy tales and Melania Trump’s shoes. Liberals need to distract the public from yet another vindication of capitalism. President Trump is copying Reagan’s formula and achieving Reagan’s results, to the dismay of all the best economists. One can imagine liberal economists paraphrasing Brutus in Shakespeare’s play, “Oh, Reagan, you are still powerful. Your ghost walks the earth.”
Every generation must fight for these freedoms. The siren song of communism has caused almost every major famine in the last 100 years. In contrast, capitalism feeds the hungry, employs the unemployed, and tends to enrich only those who deliver goods faster and cheaper. Capitalism hates waste and pollution and constantly innovates ways to minimize both. There is still a chance in this country for freedom to triumph.