The Goose

The recently conflicted-about-Barry Peggy Noonan has a moment of brilliant clarity:

…Lately it is as if the American government, having decided in its programs, assumptions and philosophy to become more European, has at the same time decided it would be amusing to speak to the American people only in French.

Which would give rise to a simple and wholly understandable suspicion that the government doesn’t speak clearly about what it’s doing for the reason that they know that if people fully understood they would say, “Oh that’s not a good idea,” or, “The cost of that will kill us.”

I think there are two major but not fully formed or fully articulated fears among thinking Americans right now, and the deliberate obscurity of official language only intensifies those fears.

The first is that Mr. Obama’s government, in all its flurry of activism, may kill the goose that laid the golden egg. This is as dreadful and obvious a cliché as they come, but too bad, it’s what people fear. They see the spending plans and tax plans, the regulation and reform hunger, the energy proposals and health-care ambitions, and they—we—wonder if the men and women doing all this, working in their separate and discrete areas, are being overseen by anyone saying, “By the way, don’t kill the goose.”

The goose of course is the big, messy, spirited, inspiring, and sometimes in some respects damaging but on the whole brilliant and productive wealth-generator known as the free-market capitalist system. People do want things cleaned up and needed regulations instituted, and they don’t mind at all if the very wealthy are more heavily taxed, but they greatly fear a goose killing. Economic freedom in all its chaos and disorder has kept us rich for 200 years, and allowed us as a nation to be generous and strong at home and in the world. But the goose can be killed—by carelessness, hostility, incrementalism, paralysis, and by no one saying, “Don’t kill the goose.”

Complicating all this is the fact that so many of the Obama people seem to be extremely bright and pleasant academic types with no particular and personal knowledge of business in America. They are not messy businessmen with a love for the system that lifted them. Mr. Obama himself, like John McCain, has shown no particular interest in making money in his life, with the latter preferring military and then political glory, and the former preferring political power.

The second great fear is that the balance between those who pay taxes and those who need benefits will be left, after the great flurry, all out of whack. When this balance is deeply disturbed or distorted, when the number of those who need to take truly overwhelms those who need to make, a tipping point occurs. People become disheartened. Generations become resigned. Tiredness steps in. We will miss irrational exuberance.

Is anyone in the Obama administration watching this? If they are, they’re not saying, certainly not clearly…

Advertisements
Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
%d bloggers like this: