J. T. Young

This dynamic, coupled with competition’s absence (an absence often de jure enforced or de facto, through subsidization), means government does not have to provide particularly good services, or even be very efficient in distributing them, for this disparity between limited return and extended cost to prevail.

To change government, we must change its prevailing dynamic. Competition must exist and must come first between government and its citizens. Specifically, citizens must benefit on a broad scale from government savings. Only a broader and consistent interest in savings can override the parochial interest of government spending.

Such a change will not be easy. Government spending has been allowed to increase greatly, while the taxpaying base has been allowed to decrease progressively – further tilting the field toward spending. But such a tilt has not always existed – for well less than half America’s history – and need not always exist.

Allowing citizens to become more like shareholders – allowing them to retain more of their wealth – must be part of any continued spending reduction. A portion of government savings must consistently be returned to citizens, proportionally increasing over time as government debt is reduced, in the same way a business returns profits to shareholders.

Only by changing its imbedded dynamic is there hope in changing government. Creating citizens’ demand for savings is the first step in creating a climate of competition within government. Once instilled, government’s motivation will be too.

The process cannot work in reverse. It is naïve to expect government, driven by an anti-competitive culture, to willingly adopt or long maintain a competitive one of its own accord.

Once reversed business’ virtuous cycle of savings will be as hard to undo as today’s vicious one of spending. As the vicious cycle’s self-destructive nature becomes daily more clear, it is time that we looked at establishing a self-constructive one.

Those who see sound fiscal policy as an either-or, between an increased economy via tax cuts or improved fiscal policy via deficit reduction, miss the larger point. The two are not mutually exclusive but, over the long-term, are mutually reinforcing. Until government’s prevailing dynamic is changed, conservatives cannot win the deficit and debt debate. Once it is, conservatives cannot lose.

J. T. Young

J.T. Young was Communications Director in Office of Management and Budget (2003-2004) and Deputy Assistant for Tax and Budget Policy at the Department of Treasury (2001-2003) in the Bush Administration.