Sunday, July 22, 2007

It Takes A Giant

Look at how spending has increased in California since Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governor in 2003:

Unlike President Bush, who has contempt for book larnin', Schwarzenegger talked for years about how much Milton Friedman meant to him. Then when he got into power he did the same thing Bush did as President -- he became a big spender. It's almost as if he used free market ideas to gain power, then once in power he abandoned them. As Governor he has acted according to the opposite premise, the premise of state intervention in the economy.

My first conclusion was that unlike Reagan, Schwarzenegger really is as dumb as he looks. But he is a highly capable man who has succeeded now in three different careers, body building, acting and politics, and he is surrounded by the best advisers taxpayers' money can buy, so something other than stupidity must driving the Governor's statism.

The only explanation I can see is pragmatism. A politician in power comes under tremendous pressure from a thousand directions at once. Every pressure group wants its piece of the taxpayers pie. The Democrats pull in 10 different directions while the Republicans pull in 10 other directions. The media have their agenda. The one thing every faction has in common is that it wants the state to intervene in the economy for its sake.

It takes a strong commitment to principle to keep from giving a little to this faction and a little to that faction, and what the hell, let's buy some good press by increasing the budget for x and the powerful Chairman of the Way and Means Committee promised he would support y if I would just throw some money at z...

Arnold Schwarzenegger might have been impressed by the individual arguments for freedom in Milton Friedman's writing, but he obviously never grasped the principles behind the arguments. In applying those principles in action, he has been a complete failure. He has gotten lost in the forest of pressure groups and voices crying "Spend, spend spend!" Without an understanding of principles such as individual rights, he has no map out of the forest.

It takes a man of uncommon integrity and understanding of the principles of liberty to govern well in today's welfare state. To shrink the budget and dismantle the regulatory state would take a giant. Schwarzenegger and Bush are no giants.


Inspector said...


Some good insight into Ahnold's character is to be found here. He'll do anything, say anything to get ahead.

Myrhaf said...

Interesting piece, Inspector.

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I have a British friend, a real egghead mathematician, who also sings Friedman's praises but votes Labor because he believes in the "Third Way." Scratch any European deeply enough and you will find a statist/socialist. Ahnuld didn't marry into a family of noblesse oblige elitist socialists by mistake. He always was a statist.

Having lived in the UK and the USA, I think it's impossible for non-Americans to grasp the idea of the individual sovereignty which is the basis of our particular type of capitalism. European "capitalism" was born of mercantilism not pioneering self-reliance. They haven't got a clue.

I think it's because, unlike Americans, they cannot conceive of a world without government or a state where the people have created the government from scratch. They were born into a tradition of unexamined statism.

Myrhaf said...

Those are excellent points, Patrick.

Jim May said...

Patrick is right on the mark -- individualism never took hold outside of America.

That is part of the reason why the term "liberalism" still has its original meaning in the rest of the world -- a pro-free market, individual freedom-ish politics -- but here in America, liberalism has been transmuted into socialism. When the Left rose to prominence in the 19th century, it could be openly socialist in Europe, because the notion of individual self-determination never stuck -- what they ended up with was (and is) the idea of *national* self-determination instead -- the real principle underlying democracy. The old Enlightenment liberalism, lacking even the implicit grasp of moral individualism, has simply withered away to an ineffectual and frequently fringe movement in Europe (in Germany it had completely vanished in the aftermath of World War I).

But in America, individual sovereignty "took" deeply enough, though only at an implicit level, for Americans to understand socialism and reject it outright, which they do to this day *so long as it is openly identified as such*.

For the Left to enter here, they had to go deeper -- they first had to undercut and obliterate that implicit moral awareness of individual rights, before they could bring America to such a pass as they have Europe. They did it by attacking its weak spot -- its lack of an explicit philosophical base. When Herbert Croly and his ilk began to attack the idea of the "night watchman" government, and began to refer to America as a "democracy", the fall of American liberalism had begun. The process was completed in the 60's, when the hippies signalled the eradication of "old-style" liberalism from American culture -- the universities haven't "minted" any new ones since. Today, what "old-style" liberals are left, are just old liberals. The hippies took over, and what passes under "liberalism" today is in fact socialism (also called "progressivism").

What about conservatism, you ask? Well, they too are a fundamentally anti-Enlightenment ideology; as such, they too wish to see actual liberalism permanently destroyed. They are willing and active accomplices in the process, aiding and abetting it, conflating liberalism with the Left in hopes that when the latter crashes and burns, it will take what's left of the Enlightenment with it.

Myrhaf said...

Good stuff, Jim. You don't have a blog, do you?