Friday, October 14, 2005

Multiple-personality disorder

I have recently been accused of being schizophrenic. Reason: I frequently harp on the size and scope of the federal government (and its budget), yet I also link to posts like this one which argue that our federal budget deficit isn't so bad.

To explain my internal consistency, it suffices to divide the issue of federal spending into two realms: one is the realm of law and philosophy of government, the other is the realm of economics.

When looking at things through the lens of economics, I think its clear that:
1. There is no impending budget-deficit crisis.
2. Current spending levels are supportable, given robust economic growth.
My take-away is that, from an economic stand-point, we shouldn't go crazy with tax-cuts or spending-cuts in an effort to "tame" our "exploding" national debt.

Before we start analyzing government spending economically, we first have to ask ourselves what the Constitution authorizes the federal government to do as a matter of law. (And what powers we should give to government more generally.) From this perspective, I am convinced that the federal government is too powerful:
1. the constitution lays out a central authority whose powers are limited to a small number of specificall enumerated functions (national defense, interstate commerce, foreign affairs, regulation of the money supply, federal courts) -- compare this to our current situation: the courts have allowed the federal government to regulate (and tax) pretty much anything.
2. the un-constitutional power of our current federal government manifests itself in two ways: federal regulations and the power to tax and spend.
3. I want to reduce the power of our federal government, thus I desire a reduction in government spending/taxing. This is an end in itself and completely independent of any economic analysis (though I happen to believe that lower taxes will induce greater economic growth).
So my desire to see the budget reduced is motivated by a desire to reduce the scope and power of the federal government, not by economic concerns.

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