“In the long run, we are all dead.” John Maynard Keynes
This ranks as one of the most irresponsible remarks in the history of humanity. Keynes may have filled his own prophecy. He is dead. We are not–at least not yet. But we are living in Keynes’ long run and we are about to find out how wrong he was.
Keynesian economics called into question the premises of the classical theory that preceded it. Keynes thought that laissez-faire capitalism, the freedom of individuals to trade with little or no interference from the government, would lead to sub-optimal outcomes for the economy as a whole. He advocated a more aggressive role for government to counterbalance business cycles and to promote economic well-being through “stimulus” spending.
Little wonder that politicians embrace his message. Keynes’ invitation to spend, spend, spend is like telling an alcoholic to drink, drink, drink. The only difference is that taxpayers get the hangover. A huge economy like ours is a hard thing to break. Because we have, at least up until now, retained enough economic freedom to entice bright people to create and sell things we all want and need, we have survived. Until last year, we even gave off the impression of having prospered. That is, until millions of retirees watched their portfolios implode. Welcome to the long run.
Many of us with limited-government sensibilities thought the last nail had been driven into Keynes’ coffin two decades ago. As it turns out, he may drive the last nail into ours. Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress have conjured up his spirit, invoking heroic images of FDR, the imagined savior of the Great Depression. And lest you think this is a Republican-friendly blog, they are no better. If anything, they are more devious, pretending to prefer less government while spending like inebriated seamen. In a way, Democrats are the streetwalkers of American life. They don’t pretend to be anything but what they are or they are too stupid to hide it. Republicans are call girls, cleverly pretending to be respectable, but eager to go spread-eagle for a slightly higher fee.
No amount of ranting about politicians, cathartic as it may be, will help any of us. The system has been rigged over a period of decades and is now beyond repair without radical changes. Don’t hold your breath waiting for politicians to learn anything. What will help us as individuals is a realistic preview of what is about to happen and how to protect ourselves. This time, folks, it is different. We are beyond arguments about what government should do. We are about to find out what they cannot do.