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Don’t blame me

Scott Wagner | Tuesday, April 4, 2006

I probably should not write this article. I should probably take a moment, calmly collect my thoughts and speak more softly. But how many other libertarian-themed articles do you read? If you are a libertarian, you probably read a bunch. If you are not, however, this one is probably it.

So in the wake of the Senate’s recent vote to raise the ceiling on U.S. borrowing authority to $8.965 trillion (an increase of $781 billion from last year) I have to say something loudly.

I cannot take it anymore.

The vote passed the Senate along mostly party lines, 58-42. The legislation was the fourth time since 2002 that the government needed to borrow more money than allowed so as to again avoid defaulting on the federal debt. Now, according to the Congressional Budget Office, American taxpayers will be shelling out $217 billion this year on the interest accumulating on Washington’s loans alone.

Now, I am no fan of Bill Clinton and his sneaky rhetoric about a “budget surplus” (imagine, if you will, paying $20 for a gallon of milk, and instead of giving you change, the cashier excitedly proclaims he now has a “budget surplus” – if that’s a surplus, I’m Batman), but what has happened in the last six years? Does anyone out there besides me care that the Bush Administration’s fiscally irresponsible behavior is abhorrent? Reprehensible? Atrocious?

And, the truth is, I blame you.

Libertarians are very keen on the notion of personal responsibility. As a libertarian, I see politics as the following choice: more government or more liberty. The problem is, when you consistently choose more government, it equals less liberty for me. You do not vote in a vacuum. Voting is exercising political force; it is a form of violence, like it or not, and my grandchildren will be paying for your irresponsibility.

Today, the United States proudly claim (yes, that verb is plural) almost half of the world’s military expenditures. In 20 years, Medicare will consume nearly 40 percent of our nation’s GDP (not federal budget, GDP). Our country is the world’s most powerful “superdebtor.” Does it truly matter how quickly we can destroy Saddam Hussein’s country when our “leaders” have sold so many Treasury bonds to China?

Debtors used to be thrown in jail when they could not pay for their poor choices. If debtors’ prison still existed, there would be no one left in Washington and I would be a happy man. However, instead of throwing them in jail, we are giving them permission to take more and more money that they have no intention of repaying. With reelection rates as high as they are, politicians feel far too safe in the hallowed halls of Congress. They do not fear their constituents anymore.

I am tired of the bickering between the wings of the Republicrat Party. I saw a poster in O’Shaughnessy that asked for grassroots volunteers to fight the extreme right wing and elect progressives into office. Because, obviously, once we kick the irresponsible, big-government imperialists out of office, the world will be better with the irresponsible, big-government socialists who will happily replace them.

Dear liberals and conservatives: Please stop fighting. You are both to blame for this mess. Bill Clinton killed plenty of civilians in Iraq during his reign, and under George W. Bush, federal spending on education has increased by 70 percent. Please cease the rhetoric, the apologetics, the spin. It is time to take responsibility for your politicians. I am tired of them, their lies and the fact that you keep voting for them.

I am not going to commit the sin of claiming outright that most Americans are capital-L Libertarians. However, I do believe that most Americans do not want “progressives” in Washington. Most Americans do not want imperialism, or foreign nation-building or more socialism. On a broad scale, we historically distrust our smiling leaders – and with good cause. I am convinced that most Americans want peace, freedom and to be left alone; and while the majority of Americans may or may not be Libertarians, those sentiments themselves are strikingly libertarian.

Remember, politicians do not seek office simply to represent the voice of the voiceless. Leo Tolstoy wrote: “In order to get power and retain it, it is necessary to love power; but love of power is not connected with goodness but with qualities that are the opposite of goodness, such as pride, cunning, and cruelty.” Unfortunately, the people best suited to lead a nation are those who do not want the job.

I am not proposing some sort of cure-all solution, because one does not exist. I am simply asking – well, demanding – that you respect the choice that you have: more government or more liberty. Considering Novel Laureate Friedrich Hayek’s wise words that “in government, the scum rises to the top,” I ask you to be very, very wary.

The hand that feeds you can just as easily strangle you to death, and, if given the chance, it will.

Scott Wagner is president of the College Libertarians. He really doesn’t like politicians. He can be contacted at swagner1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.