The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Consequences of divided government

Some people have cheered the result of the election last month in producing a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate, which means that, together with the continuing Democratic hold on the Presidency, we will have divided government. They believe that this will require both parties to work together, which will lead to a moderate policy, in line with the wishes of most Americans, rather that the extremist policies that result when one party dominates both houses of Congress and the Presidency.

To some extent, this will probably happen. President Obama has already begun moving in a more moderate direction (though he does not have to face a Republican House until next month) in his willingness to compromise on the bill that extended the Bush administration tax cuts, as the Republicans wanted, while also extending the unemployment benefits, as the Democrats wanted. However, divided government is particularly bad in one area: the deficit.

Republicans tend to help solve deficits by lowering both taxes and spending, in accordance with a desire to make government smaller. By lowering taxes, they give the people control of more of their money, while also discouraging the start of new government programs since there is less money to pay for them. By contrast, Democrats tend to help solve deficits by raising both taxes and spending, since they want to start a lot of new government programs of various kinds, so they need the new taxes to pay for them.

When government is divided, we see what happened during the latter part of Ronald Reagan's Presidency: the Republicans succeeded in lowering taxes (which people like), while the Democrats succeeded in starting their new government programs (which also appeals to a lot of people; at least to those who are the beneficiaries of those programs). The deficit ballooned. The same, of course, happened in the latter years of the George W. Bush Presidency, only more so because of the effects of recession. So I'm afraid that controlling the deficit will be a hopeless task.

When Richard Nixon was President, he found a solution: the Democratic Congress appropriated a lot of funds which President Nixon simply "embargoed": he didn't spend the money on the basis that he was simply authorized to spend it, not required to. This got such a bad reputation among Democrats that later Presidents did not do things like that. And anyway, it would not be very likely that this solution would work in the current situation, where the Democrats control the Presidency: it is the President who wants both higher taxes and spending, and he obviously cannot spend money that the Congress does not give him. So what will happen is anybody's guess.

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