Thursday, December 29, 2011

Keeping Presidents in their Place

This conservatarian recoils when he sees self-styled conservatives playing a game of Job Creation Derby with the president, or with any of the other job destroyers on the Left. In a truly free market system, and under the Republican form of government with which Americans were blessed, presidents ought to have minimal influence over the economy. Any president who claims or believes he can "create jobs" like a wizard is a president with too much ego and too much power. We can't be said to be practicing "free enterprise" if any politician holds such sway over the economy. I can't support any candidate for president who doesn't have the humility to recognize the limits of economic interventionism.

Swept-up in the irrational exuberance of the moment, and in trying to compete with a President who has assumed God-like powers, some conservatives seem to have forgotten that we're the non-interventionists. Such presidential posturing isn't just presumptuous. It doesn't just raise impossibly high public expectations, resulting inevitably in disappointment and cynicism. The worst thing about it is that it's incompatible with the economic and political systems we Americans claim to revere. In short, it's unAmerican.

A president's job ought to be enforcing a few simple rules, protecting private property and other civil liberties and otherwise getting government out of the way, allowing the real job-creators and wealth-producers to do their thing. A president, if he or she wants to be helpful to the economy, should focus on preventing government from killing jobs -- and on creating a general economic climate hospitable to free enterprise, rather than trying to plant the seeds himself. The rest will happen naturally.

Any Republican who wants to compete with the President as a "job creator" is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

(To be fair to Newt Gingrich, it's worth conceding that the campaign ad that prompted this post talks a good game about clearing away existing hurdles to economic development, rather than engaging in the kind of Keynesian spending binges Democrats call "stimulus." But Newt's chameleon-like history as a consummate Washington insider and manipulator makes me wary.)

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