Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 1999 /22 Kislev, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- Just this morning, I received an article that appears in the forthcoming issue of Policy Review from the Heritage Foundation. In it, economist Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan administration Treasury official, argues that tax revolt is dead in America, for now.
Bartlett isn't saying that Americans now favor high taxes, just that reducing taxes is not among their foremost priorities. This is a particularly disturbing finding considering that "taxes as a share of gross domestic product or personal income are at all-time highs and have risen very sharply during the Clinton administration."
One obvious reason for this is that the tax burden has shifted dramatically toward the highest producers. Since the wealthy are much fewer in number than the middle and poorer classes, it stands to reason that the majority is not up in arms over the tax structure. Alexis de Tocqueville warned that our Republic would be imperiled when the people realized they could vote themselves money from the public trough.
But by focusing too intensely on how much the public values tax cuts we may be missing the bigger picture.
Last week, I wrote that there would always be a place for Republicans so long as they serve as guardians of our political liberties. But built into that statement was the assumption that enough people appreciate those freedoms.
As each day passes, I become increasingly concerned over the validity of this assumption. In addition to the public's attitude about tax cuts, how else do you account for:
As we approach the new millennium, perhaps it's time for a wake-up call. As a society, we've begun to confuse means with ends. That is, in our zest for prosperity, we seem to have forgotten that the greater societal good is not wealth, but the underlying liberty that makes possible its pursuit and attainment. Lord Acton observed that "liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end."
By concentrating solely on how much prosperity is going around, we lose sight of the ideal of freedom and the subtle, incremental encroachments on it that occur each day at the hands of our government.
While the major battles in the political arena are fought over how much federal money should be allocated over this and that, our politicians no longer even object to the propriety of government being involved at all in certain areas of our lives.
What possible business could a government that was constituted primarily to provide for our common defense and domestic tranquility have, for example, in funding the arts or spending billions of our federal tax dollars on local education?
The challenge for next millennium's American political leaders is not to demonstrate how they can best micromanage our macro-economy, but to lead the charge in holding the line on our freedoms (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). That, after all, is the reason for the existence of the necessary evil of government.
Before implementing any governmental initiative involving tax, education, Social Security, the environment or even foreign policy, we must always ask ourselves the threshold question of whether and how much freedom it will cost.
You may argue that I'm being too idealistic. Maybe so. But then what
about those other fellows: Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison and
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?