Politics vs. Prosperity

Written By: Josh Kimbrell.

During election years like this one we’re often treated to a steady stream of sound bites and promises about returning prosperity to South Carolina, to America. Folks have rightly become pretty skeptical about politicians’ serving-up a laundry list of “I’ll do yas,” which can never really get “done.” What we need are leaders who’ll tell us the truth: that government doesn’t hold the answers the world is waiting for.

In 2010, we need folks to stand-up and tell us that they can’t create jobs in Columbia or Washington, but that they’ll get out of the way of those who can. In his bestselling book Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One, Dr. Thomas Sowell illustrates the disconnect between politics and economic policy. Particularly revealing was his discussion of the politicians’ search for significance.

How many times have you seen a Governor or Senator at the opening of a re-paved road? How many times have you seen a Congressman or Councilwoman cutting a ribbon at a business started by private capital vs. government hand-outs? The answer: not too many. There’s a reason why our government in Columbia and Washington favors Keynesian economics: it ensures they make the headlines. The reason American has a “rust belt” is that state and local politicians, at the height of the auto industry and manufacturing, decided to hike taxes to heighten their political aspirations. They put the long-term prosperity of their constituents behind their own electoral career.

There’s an itch that most politicians develop to be seen “doing.” They feel that their chances of getting reelected go-up when they “do something,” which often is worse than if they hadn’t. Let’s take, for comparative purposes, the stock market crashes of 1929 and 1987. Each took place in October, and each were equally steep in their decline; however, one resulting in the great depression, the other in an economic boom. Now, why is that? Why did two situations, so very similar in structure, have such varied outcomes? The answer is the character of the men at the helm. In 1929 Herbert Hoover felt the need to “do something,” which meant he took from the job creators to look like he was creating jobs. Ronald Reagan, in 1987, had a cup of coffee after dinner and went to bed. Did that make Reagan irresponsible? Sure, if you’d asked the New York Times. If you asked the other 250 millions Americans at the time, I’m sure they liked it better than 1929!

The conclusion is that political leaders love to butcher the Golden Goose (that is, the private sector) to curry public favor. This strategy works, however, only if you can keep it from dying until after the next election cycle. The current Congress killed the goose shortly after taking office. Now they’re just left with feathers in their hats and blood on their hands. I hope the goose was worth it.

God Bless,
-Josh Kimbrell
President & Chairman

Josh Kimbrell is President & Chairman of CEO Round Table of South Carolina. CEO stands for “Christians Empowered & Organized.” Part of the mission of CEO Round Table is “to promote a way of life that embraces faith, family, and freedom.”