The presidential election occurring on Tuesday is ultimately about the US economy. While there are many issues that matter to the voters, the issue front and center will be the weak US economy. The election battle will be between whomever has the best plan to boost growth.
11/04/2012 @ 12:58PM
Tuesday’s presidential election is ultimately about the U.S. economy. There are numerous issues that matter to the voters at present, but front and center is the limping economy, and the battle between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama over who has the best plan to boost growth.
But before I get to the economics of the election, I think it’s important to note what a shame it is that the upcoming election matters at all. Indeed, it’s too often forgotten what’s in fact very true, that when the Founders wrote the Constitution for the great libertarian – small l – experiment that was once the United States, they were very clear about the size and scope of the federal government.
The federal government was first authorized by the Framers, then those same Framers proceeded to greatly limit the federal government’s powers. As James Madison put it, the powers of the federal government were “few and defined.” To read the Constitution isn’t to read a document limiting our rights as individuals, rather it’s something meant to greatly limit the role of the federal government in our lives.
Despite the obvious intent of the Founders, they were still skeptical that their brilliant document would be understood, so with that in mind they wrote the 9th and 10th amendments. The 9th says:
”The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Basically the 9th says that as humans our rights are natural, in a sense infinite, and that there’s no way to list all the rights we have which extend right up to infringing on the rights of others. In short, the 9th made plain that we could and can do what we want so long as our actions don’t cost others or bring harm to others. “Live and let live” as they say.
And then the 10th is something libertarians like to refer to as “Constitution for Dummies.” It was inserted so that if there were any doubts among future legislators about the role of the federal government, the 10th amendment would settle those questions:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The 10th amendment exists to clarify things. To put it very simply, the 10th was inserted to let presidents, senators and congressmen know that if the power is not enumerated to the federal government in the Constitution, then it doesn’t exist. Of course this is why federal elections shouldn’t matter to us.
Indeed, so limiting is the document as to the powers we grant the federal government that we needn’t really care too much whom we elect given the simple truth that the President and Congress have very limited ability to do much of anything. Instead, the President and Congress exist to simply protect us from foreign intruders, and to protect our right to live as we want so long as our choices don’t limit the rights of others. At least that’s what we thought.
Founding father Thomas Jefferson noted long ago that the natural direction is for liberty to yield to power-seeking politicians – I paraphrase – and his utterance proved rather prescient with regard to the U.S. A nation founded by individuals possessing a great deal of skepticism about government – something which was highly unique – and who wrote a founding document that greatly limited the powers of the political class they were skeptical about, ultimately fell asleep and gradually yielded a great deal of liberty.
And that’s why it’s a shame that my speech perhaps matters, but more to the point, that the upcoming elections matter. They do because be they Democrats or Republicans, neither Party abides by the strict constitutional limits set by the founders, and the result is that we must care very much about federal elections.
For longer than we’ve all been alive those jealous of us in other countries have mocked our lack of interest in politics, our coarse nature, how we’re too capitalistic to care about current events or the world around us, but unbeknownst to our detractors, they were complimenting us. Since the federal government’s role in our lives was limited, and as such, inconsequential, and because we were by design thousands of miles away from the European wars that our early settlers were to some degree escaping, we didn’t have to care what happened outside of where we lived.
Fast forward to today, and a time when Americans are seemingly more politically engaged than ever, that we are is an insult and speaks to how very much ground we’ve given up to the political class. Basically we handed our hard won liberties to Washington, and so now we must care. Some joke that Americans should go to bed early on election night, and they’re joking because they along with everyone in the room know that what happens in Washington now does matter, and because it does, so do elections.
It would be hard to find a greater indictment of Washington and what our nation has become than our growing interest in politics, but there you have it. Though the Founders envisioned a country where citizens would pay the vast majority of their light tax bill to local politicians – cities and states essentially autonomous locales serving as laboratories of ideas where the vast majority of legislation would occur – we’re now in an odd way prisoners of a country that runs from its founding principles with greater and greater speed.
Though it used to be that we could choose our small or extremely small government bliss through migration from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, or Minnesota to South Dakota, nowadays, thanks to a federal government that has no regard for constitutional limits, we pay the majority of our taxes to the federal government. Call my description of this hyperbole, but nowadays those of us who would prefer to live free of government intrusion in our lives have nowhere to hide.
About this, the Founders would not be happy. A nation created so that its citizens could live freely under a government of their choosing is now one marked by an increasingly arrogant federal government. Indeed, whatever you think of Obamacare, and it’s not my intention to comment on it one way or the other, at the very least you must acknowledge that at best, healthcare legislation should occur in the laboratories that are the states. If you disagree, find me the line in the Constitution that enumerates to the federal government a role in how we access healthcare.
Some might reply that the General Welfare clause in our founding document enumerates this power, but such a response would be false. If the General Welfare clause were really so expansive such that politicians could invent new roles for the government, then it would render the Constitution itself moot. In truth, the purpose of General Welfare was to remind politicians to consider the nation’s welfare before engaging in acts allowed for by the Constitution. Healthcare legislation is decidedly not one of those.
So yes, the upcoming elections matter, and they sadly do because constitutional limits have been forgotten by both parties. We’re a much lesser nation because we have no choice but to stay up late watching election returns, and then for all those in the room understandably concerned about the economy, how interesting if we could quantify all the economic growth and innovation lost thanks to the waste of human and financial capital on getting around the various barriers to growth erected by our federal minders.
Specifically, have we lost cancer and heart disease cures, software and other economic enhancements that would make today’s prosperity look incredibly bleak? I think so.
All of which brings us to the upcoming election pitting Mitt Romney the Republican versus Barack Obama the Democrat. We have to spend time caring about their election because neither regards constitutional limits.
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