Politics & Media
May 24, 2023, 05:57AM

Too Big to Bail

Shoplifters of the world united and took over.

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The pretense that the government’s debt ceiling threatens us rather than the debt itself threatening us—not to mention the government that racked up that debt—is backwards and upside-down. Unless you refuse to believe in induction, it’sobvious that each decision to increase the debt ceiling, rather than being followed by some newfound will to impose fiscal discipline, is instead followed by the vampiric federal government taking on even more debt and spending even more money, even as it decreases the value of each unit of that money through more money-printing.

The entire process must end, by the educational shock of default if necessary.

It’s a relatively trivial but highly apt footnote to the whole process that it’s overseen by a man, President Joe Biden, who pretends to be the wiser, calmer head needed to stave off fiscal disaster even as he is surrounded by accusations of nepotism and bribery (though with one witness reportedly gone missing, maybe building a case for impeachment will be difficult).

Redefining the word “responsible” so that it implies not an end to federal spending but merely to the recurring official increase of the debt ceiling—the now near-meaningless legal limit on how far the federal government can go in the hole by borrowing—is like calling people “responsible” for getting their ornery, stumbling, alcoholic relative yet another whisky instead of letting him throw a fit.

As solutions go, raising the debt ceiling is about as short-sighted a habit as turning shoplifting into a legalized mode of economic interaction, as is de facto happening in some urban areas losing the will to arrest or prosecute, their barbaric inhabitants increasingly of the mindset that insurance pays businesses for losses, so why worry about the long-term consequences of businesses constantly losing money?

But then, that thinking on the part of poor individuals is hardly unique, what with some government officials and even some “economists” pushing the utter inanity that is “Modern Monetary Theory,” the idea that government can keep printing dollars without any corresponding collapse in the value of each of those dollars, since government just needs to funnel the lion’s share of the newly-printed dollars into stupendously productive investments the likes of which the private sector has never thought of or attempted.

Meanwhile, as nearly the entire media class waits breathlessly for a “deal” between Republicans and Democrats to raise the debt ceiling yet again—and hopes and prays the deal won’t include anything as harsh as a spending cut anywhere to anything—self-appointed tribune of the people Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) wants tax increases to be part of any debt deal, in part to fund the government’s biggest malinvestment boondoggle, Social Security.

Once again, we’re reminded populists are virtually useless, opposed to spending of symbolic interest to a minority of the population but more interested in fostering authoritarianism of symbolic interest to the majority of the population than in fostering freedom for all. Populism is one more phony exit from our multi-factional political nightmare.

The truth—the one sane position someone can take in the midst of ongoing fiscal nonsense and national destruction—is that all federal spending should end (let the states govern until the blessed day there’s no more governing at all). Anyone advocating continued federal spending while the government is already over $30 trillion in debt, and thus advocating the necessary, correlated, repeated lifting of the debt ceiling, isn’t a serious political thinker and should exit public life permanently, very much including any “libertarians” to whom this description applies (many of them think they are being “moderate” when they advocate the continuation of current government programs with a few modest cuts).

The quickest route out of the morass for humanity would be an overdue shift toward recognizing anyone who attempts to found or perpetuate a government (at any level) as a violent, thieving criminal. Our situation is made worse by pieces like this one on Axios that attempt to redefine any bold attempts to rein in government as “federal power grabs,” as if the soft-socialists among us suddenly transform into arch-traditionalists when they sense a mildly jarring discontinuation of standard government functioning ahead. They purportedly loathe business as usual when talking about business but faint with dread when faced with the idea that there might be a disruption in government business as usual. Orwellian propaganda.

Oh, but good news! An accounting error just turned up an extra $3 billion in spending for the Ukraine war. What luck! Of the trillions of which the Pentagon has notoriously lost track, funny this chunk should materialize—and at a time like this! No need to use it toward paying down that $30-plus trillion debt I mentioned earlier!

To twist the knife, whatever fiscal chaos lies ahead, with or without the debt ceiling rising, we’ll probably see at least a few more federally-funded (which really means taxpayers-like-you-funded) bailouts of purportedly strategic banks or other institutions that’ve made chronically poor decisions but have always been wise enough to have friends in government.

If you’re on the left—not the cynical, self-serving liberal establishment but the real left—just do me the tiny but pivotal favor of recognizing that government bailouts aren’t capitalism, or if you prefer a broad definition of “capitalism,” recognize that government bailouts aren’t in the narrower sense free market activity. A true market, a consistently libertarian, anarcho-capitalist legal/economic order, would mean no violation of property rights and thus no forced transfers of wealth by government from one party to another, whether the receiving party is a hobo, JPMorgan Chase, NASA, or that drunk relative mentioned earlier.

If Biden and the Republicans’ Rep. McCarthy end up doing joint appearances to congratulate themselves for lifting the debt ceiling and continuing the federal trough-wallow, let’s hope they’re at least honest enough to say, “America, we came together and kicked the can a tiny bit farther down the road! Maybe the future world never arrives!”

Todd Seavey is the author of Libertarianism for Beginners and is on Twitter at @ToddSeavey


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