Gongol.com Archives: August 2019
The President is reported to see conspiracies behind some of the warning signs for the economy right now. ■ This really is the central problem with politicians looking to economic success as the solitary yardstick by which they are measured: Business cycles are real, and if the only thing you're trying to sell is GDP growth, then you're prone to doing harmful things. ■ The problems with politicians who obsess over economic measures are of (at least) two classes. The first is short-termism. The "quick fix" to many macroeconomic problems usually comes with a big hangover. The right answers usually require patience. ■ The second class of problems is even more dangerous: If you think the ends justify the means, then at what would you stop in a desperate effort to squeeze another percentage point out of GDP? ■ A strong economy is a very helpful way to secure the "blessings of liberty". It is absolutely not a substitute for those blessings. Margaret Thatcher put it very well: "Representative political institutions cannot alone guarantee our liberties. It is economic liberty that nourishes the enterprise of those whose hard work and imagination ultimately determine the conditions in which we live." ■ A strong economy helps enable a lot of other good things inside a healthy society. And, properly seen, the economic liberty of individuals can be a powerful tool for helping people to recognize their other inherent human liberties. ■ If realize that I own the fruits of my own labors, then I have an incentive and a framework to realize that I own my thoughts as well. And my words. And ultimately, my consent to be governed. Economic liberalization can whet the appetite for political liberalization. ■ But a maniacal obsession with something like GDP growth is no substitute for values like individual dignity, the guarantee of minority rights, and the restraint of powerful interests by the rule of law. And, especially as unrest in pursuit of liberty makes the situation in Hong Kong unstable for China's authoritarian government, the United States must remain steady. The people of Hong Kong had better not be asked to sacrifice their freedom in exchange for us getting a "better" trade deal with China. ■ Surely the Founders would look at the United States today and marvel at our economic success. But they were also the ones who wrote that "[P]ower is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it." A politician who thinks the state of the economy is the only measure of political success is likely to do great damage to the long-term health of the economy -- and even greater damage to the civic health of the polis, the people.
With a giant display of peaceable assembly, Hong Kongers practice what America's Bill of Rights preaches
But upon acknowledgment, it should also be said, "And striving to fix those imperfections is the most American thing we can do."