John Stossel

According to Michael Tanner's "Leviathan on the Right", federal domestic spending under President Bush has risen 27 percent in real terms, while discretionary non-entitlement spending has gone up 4.5 percent a year. (Clinton's annual increase was "only" to 2.1 percent.)

Who'd have thought that a Republican president would challenge Lyndon Johnson's spending record?

Government is "that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else," wrote Frederic Bastiat, the great laissez-faire economist of Nineteenth-Century France. Of course, everyone cannot live at the expense of everyone else, but people who understand nothing about economics try, egged on by politicians looking for an election-wining coalition.

Government has no wealth of its own. Before it gives anything to anyone, it must take from those who produced it. But the taking could discourage future production, leaving less to be distributed by the politicians. Productive Americans have forged ahead despite a constellation of transfer programs, but how long will they continue to do so?

The European welfare states are learning that producers don't leave themselves available for milking forever. Their economies are sluggish, and unemployment is high. Government promises exceed resources, and citizens who were guaranteed lifelong security find their benefits shrinking.

Yet this doesn't deter our champions of big government. Even the coming Social Security and Medicare train wrecks don't faze them. So don't expect government to stop growing. The Washington Post reports ominously: "In the four months since the midterm elections, the number of new lobbyist registrations has nearly doubled to 2,232 from 1,222 in the comparable period a year earlier."

The lobbyists go where the money and the power is.

Thomas Jefferson said, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground."

It's sad that that's no myth.

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate