The Wall Street Journal Opinion page recently published a column by William McGurn entitled “Obama Brings Back the Constitution.” The gist of the essay is that Obama’s persistent efforts to breach Constitutional limits on government awakened a populist movement to protect the Constitution and shrink government.
McGurn provides a brief catalogue of the president’s attack on the Constitution beginning with Obama Care, an enormous breach of the Constitution and a huge expansion of government all by itself.
The list is far from exhaustive. He did not include, for example, the virtual take-over of public education. Nor did he mention proposals to expand executive powers that were abandoned (perhaps temporarily) when they caused a public furor.
Members of the administration reflect the president’s disdain for the Constitution and the public. Most recently NTSB (National Safety Transportation Board) chairwoman Deborah Hersman, defending the recommendation that texting and cell phone use in automobiles be outlawed, stated, “It’s going to be very unpopular with some people.” But she proclaimed, “We’re not here to win a popularity contest. We’re here to do the right thing.”
Perhaps while the Board is making sweeping recommendations, it should ban children as well as cell phones from automobiles as they, too, may distract drivers. Hersman’s arrogance is breathtaking.
But not so breathtaking as the president’s open attack on constitutional checks and balances when he recently vowed to circumvent Congress if it doesn’t do his bidding. The president said he would use executive fiat to enact his economic program.
The premise of the president’s program is that government intervention is necessary to achieve social and economic justice.
The findings of the recently released 2011 Index of Economic Freedom speak to that claim. The index, jointly sponsored by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, measures 10 components of economic freedom in 179 countries around the world and their degree of economic success.
The 2011 edition of the Index confirms findings from previous editions regarding the various tangible benefits of living in freer societies. Not only are higher levels of economic freedom associated with higher per capita incomes, but greater economic freedom is also strongly correlated to overall well-being, which takes into account such factors as health, education, security, and personal freedom.
In short, economic freedom is key to economic well being. For example, countries that are “mostly unfree” have levels of poverty intensity three times higher than countries that have more economic freedom. The converse is also true. Countries that have high levels of economic freedom have much higher levels of per capita GDP. It is also true that economically freer countries do a better job protecting the environment than highly regulated countries.
The world’s largest economy, the United States, has suffered one of the largest declines in economic freedom over the last 10 years, pushing it into tenth place. Much of this decline is a result of higher government spending and borrowing and lower scores for the legal structure and property rights components.
Economic freedom is not only key to economic well-being, it is also key to freedom in general. Hayek, in The Road to Serfdom, asserts that economic control results in totalitarianism. There is no separating economic ends from other aspects of life.
… in economic matters, we are free to decide what is more, and what less important. … To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to always be controlled, unless we declare our specific purpose. Or, since when we declare our specific purpose we shall also have to get it approved, we should really be controlled in everything.
The findings of the Index of Dependence on Government, published by the Heritage Foundation every year for the past eight, are also relevant.
Not only did the federal government effectively take over half of the U.S. economy and expand public-sector debt by more than all previous governments combined, but it also oversaw the largest single-year expansion in total government debt in U.S. history. Much of that growth in new debt can be traced to dependence-creating government programs.
Three years of the Obama administration’s unconstitutional policies have accelerated the decline of economic freedom and hindered economic recovery. The president’s hopey-feely constituency might want to think about what America will be like after another five.