“Big government” is failing around the globe.
From Sacramento to Saudi Arabia , big, controlling, impersonal and coercive government is failing to fulfill the most basic human needs of the people it is purports to serve. And while scores of individuals around the world struggle to free themselves of “big government’s” shackles - some in the Middle East even losing their lives in the process - many of my fellow Americans have been gathering publicly and chanting and banging drums and carrying banners and demanding more of it.
It’s quite a spectacle to watch. And depending on whether the demonstration is in Columbus , or Cairo , the demands of the demonstrators can be different. But at the epicenter of their commotion is a common thread – the universal needs of all human beings, and the promises, and failures, of “big government.”
I put quotation marks around the words “big government” because, technically, the term doesn’t apply so well in certain parts of the world. It makes sense for us in the United States - we rightly juxtapose the term “big government” with “limited government,” or “small government.” That’s because in America we have a voice in how our government is structured, and over the course of our nation’s history the pendulum has swung in both directions between a limited government that controls less of our private affairs, and a “big government” that controls more.
But in Libya there hasn’t been a pendulum to swing between “big government” and “limited government.” There has simply been government - Muammar Gaddafi and his band of thugs who do the “ruling,” and the citizenry are “the ruled.”
Oh sure, there has been one of the “chambers” of Libya ’s legislative body where members are supposedly “elected” from among the governed. But there is no reason to believe that Libyan elections have been held freely and accurately, and no reason to believe that those who get “elected” can defy or contradict the demands of Mr. Gaddafi (frequently spelled “Kadafi”), a man who acquired his position by means of a political coup.
The phoniness of “elections” in Libya is as bad as the 2009 re-election of Ahmadinejad in Iran . And the elections of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in 1999, and former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in 1981 bare significant resemblance as well – both characters were “elected,” yes, but then substantively changed the laws of their governments so they could hang on to power indefinitely.
But look at all that is, and is not going on in these nations. Mubarak has been removed after nearly thirty years. Kadafi is on the run (if, indeed, he is still alive). Chavez can’t seize enough radio and tv stations and kill enough of his countrymen in the streets of Caracas to quell the discontent over his failed socialistic economy. Even King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia can’t silence the youth-led uprising in his country, and has chosen to extend some $35 billion worth of “hand outs” as a short-term “fix.”
So what are we to make of this? For one, the turmoil of these countries demonstrates that the natural state of the human soul is a state of freedom. People are not content to merely “vote” every once in a while. They want a say in how they are governed, yes, but they also want the freedom to engage their god-given talents, and to improve their lives. They may acquiesce and be passive in the face of dictators and “put up with it” for a while, and may even for a time believe the claims of rulers who promise peace and provision. But younger generations in Venezuela , Saudi Arabia , Iran , Egypt and Libya have always known the failures of “big government,” and they’re willing to take enormous risks – in some cases even risking their very lives – to pursue freedom.
Secondly, we should note that when the force of government is utilized to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, the few will stop at nothing to hang-on. Venezuela and Libya and Saudi Arabia have been good for Chavez and Kadafi and King Abdullah (yet not so good for everybody else). Similarly, the incestuous relationship between American politicians and government employee unions is good for the politicians and the union members – politicians give union members what they want and union members vote to re-elect their union-loving politicians – but it’s bad for the taxpayer who ultimately pays the bill.
Ultimately, “big government” produces sluggish and un-productive economies. And the lack of economic productivity leads to civil unrest. It’s a vicious cycle that has got the world in a tailspin right now.
“Big government” is failing, around the globe and here at home. Will America make a better choice going forward?
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.