I am concerned about the economic policy that an Obama presidency with a super majority in Congress may pursue. Assuming Obama is elected, it is my hope that he governs as the centrist he has portrayed himself to be; however, Obama's stated goal of "spreading the wealth around" concerns me.
There is a reason that the U.S. has led the world as the economic superpower ever since the industrial revolution. It is not simply that we are blessed with natural resources. It is not that we are naturally smarter than the people of every other country. The U.S. has had a political and economic climate that rewarded the risk taker and encouraged investment and there has been an American “can do” spirit and American optimism. Americans believed anything was possible.
Most American’s have always thought that their children would be better off than they were. American’s never accepted that some people were better, just because they were better off. Americans wanted to become better off themselves. We did not accept that we were born to a certain station in life. Whereas in much of the world, the non-rich resent the rich, in America many hope to some day become rich. It has only rarely been popular to hate the rich in this country. America has been more concerned with growing the economy and upward mobility than redistributing the wealth.
Our bureaucratic burden has been relatively light. In some third world countries it may take months, if not years, to do something as simple as get the permits to open a new business, whereas in a matter of days one can do so in most American cities. You do not have to present a market study to a bureaucrat and show the need for the new business. You don’t have to put up a huge bond. We have thought it was our right to follow our dream and take risk.
In America, while we have labor laws protecting the health and safety of workers and some laws protecting workers from discrimination in the workplace, for the most part, we have a mobile work place. The workforce can expand and contract as needed. If you recall, in France a couple years ago thousands of students took to the streets and rioted expressing their outrage at a law that would allow employers to dismiss any newly hired employee under the age of 26 within the first two years of employment. Despite France having a youth unemployment rate of over 20%, the French preferred job security to job growth. Americans have never expected security and have embraced risk. We have had the attitude that no one owes us anything; we have to earn it.
What has distinguished the US is that we have had, relatively speaking, a non-intrusive government, less regulation and lower taxation. Maybe the American Spirit is the reason we have non-intrusive government and lower taxes, or maybe it is those things that allowed the American Spirit to flourish.
Within democratic countries, there is a scale along which at one end there is relatively unregulated capitalism and opportunities for wealth creation, however there is little economic security and a lot of risk of failure. At the other end of the scale is a stagnant economy where few business decisions can be made without the approval of government and where success is punished, but there is less chaos and more “fairness.” There is trade off between economic security and economic freedom.
I hope that Obama’s economic policy is only a slight adjustment leftward along that scale and not a wholesale embracing of European-style social democracy. It would be ashamed to kill the goose that has laid all the golden eggs for all these many years. I hope the American dream and the American spirit has not been traded for the security of mediocrity. I would miss the America that was.