Power Is the Endgame: Words are Only Tools

In case any of you who watch this spot haven’t figured it out, I miss Milton Friedman. No, I never knew him personally, but his thinking on economics, individuals and responsibility has had a direct and beneficial influence on my life. For example, Friedman’s thinking on higher education led to my attending college. But that is a story for another day.

These days, I am grateful for people such as Thomas Sowell–living proof that we still have some economists who understand how the world works. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Friedman thought very highly of Sowell.

Most recently, Sowell writes about the urgency which our President has used/is still trying to use to implement his massive policy changes:

One plain fact should outweigh all the words of Barack Obama and all the impressive trappings of the setting in which he says them: He tried to rush Congress into passing a massive government takeover of the nation’s medical care before the August recess– for a program that would not take effect until 2013!

Whatever President Obama is, he is not stupid. If the urgency to pass the medical care legislation was to deal with a problem immediately, then why postpone the date when the legislation goes into effect for years– more specifically, until the year after the next Presidential election?

If this is such an urgently needed program, why wait for years to put it into effect? And if the public is going to benefit from this, why not let them experience those benefits before the next Presidential election?

[emphasis mine]

Indeed, why not? Could it be that the benefits will prove negative? He continues:

If it is not urgent that the legislation goes into effect immediately, then why don’t we have time to go through the normal process of holding Congressional hearings on the pros and cons, accompanied by public discussions of its innumerable provisions? What sense does it make to “hurry up and wait” on something that is literally a matter of life and death?

If we do not believe that the President is stupid, then what do we believe? The only reasonable alternative seems to be that he wanted to get this massive government takeover of medical care passed into law before the public understood what was in it.

Ah. Surely that would not be the case. Why, that is positively Machiavellian. On to the stimulus, then, which also was not going to be spent right away:

What was the rush to pass [the stimulus], then? It was not to get that money out into the economy as fast as possible. It was to get that money– and the power that goes with it– into the hands of the government. Power is what politics is all about.

I am reminded of a statement which I believe was largely overlooked during the Van Jones kerfuffle. The erstwhile green jobs czar was quoted (after he started working with the White House) as follows:

Jones told me the one thing he’s learned in the four weeks he’s been in Washington is that “power in D.C. is an illusion. Nobody in D.C. has as much power as they want—not even the president.”

Is it too much to see his statement as true, that our elected (and unelected) officials in government do not have “as much power as they want”? Note that it is not about having as much as is necessary to fulfill constitutionally established roles and responsibilities; it is not about having as much power as they have been given by the populace. No, it is about having the power they want–and no matter how much power they get, it will never be as much as they want.

Back to Milton Friedman for the wrap:

In my opinion, the strongest argument for free enterprise is that it prevents anybody from having too much power.