If it had all gone smoothly – if the Congressional Join Select Committee had come up with an ostensibly wise compromise on the deficit that pleased both sides, some mix of tax increases and budget cuts – they could (if they were really thinking) not only have announced it with pride to the world but could easily have spun it as a “We listened to you, America” moment that might have helped them save face with both the Occupy Wall Street crowd (who’d appreciate seeing the rich taxed) and the Tea Party (who, like me, just want some damn spending cuts).
But the last thing I really want is the public getting the false impression that government can make tough decisions and reach reasonable compromises. There are things we should want to see fail, among them:
•The Super Committee. Three cheers for $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts – though those are really only enough cuts for a year, not spread out over a decade, as Ron Paul has rightly noted. I would love to see him now emerge as the one plausible spokescandidate for real cuts and real fiscal discipline – and if he added a more optimistic note about what free individuals can privately accomplish once freed from spending, taxes, and regulation, he might handle this episode as artfully as he did the Occupiers who tried to “mic check” him. (I’m actually quite pleased that the Super Committee was too boring to really attract the kind of attention that turns political developments into “must succeed” causes for the political establishment.)
•Occupy Wall Street. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Like Ron Paul, I sympathize with their anguish and agree with some of their points. But the silliness of some of their socialistic, redistributionist thinking is well captured in a parody protest noted by Dorian Davis. (I notice one prominent OWS arrestee, Cornel West, having earlier left Harvard, is now leaving Princeton for NYC’s own Union Theological Seminary, another reminder that the twin evils of pro-government and pro-religion sentiment are in fact closely related – anxiety about a world without a central planner.)
•The euro and the EU. The former because more competing currencies are a good thing (and the best check on inflation absent some unvarying peg such as gold – and it is the unvarying peg that checks inflation that matters in currency debates, not the inherent or use value of gold, it’s important to remember). The latter because competing governments are also an improvement over one central one (as UK MEP Farage angrily reminded the European Parliament recently, to the visible amusement of the Italian member, as Katherine Taylor notes – not that Italy, where people barely know how to wait in line let alone govern, is in a great position to judge, despite having the right idea about coffee).
•Unity, solidarity, and a central government. George Carlin, as was often the case, comes perilously close to the truth about the advantages of letting people go their separate ways in this stand-up bit about how to get rid of the government.
•The Whole Damn System. Even NPR notes the growing influence of Ayn Rand on Capitol Hill. Sooner or later, ideas have consequences.