France and Greece Move Left

Now that France’s incumbent President Sarkozy has been defeated at the polls by socialist candidate M. Hollande, Americans should have gotten a wake-up call. Angela Merkel now seems to be the only voice of European reason in the rising popular tide against budgetary austerity and a return to the by now old-fashioned idea that the public sector should live within its means.

President Obama and his Democratic predecessors argue that Americans should look to Europe for policies to emulate, such as single-payer healthcare plans, that seem to “work” there and that the United States should therefore mimic. Be careful what you wish for!

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, tried something like a single-payer plan, including individual mandates for purchasing health-insurance policies, as the Governor of Massachusetts, with predictably disastrous consequences for that state’s budget.

The rising global shift toward left-leaning governance leads me to predict that President Obama will be reelected in November. The US economy seems to be improving, based on recent estimates that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen from about 10 percent to 8.1 percent during his watch. But most voters are rationally too ignorant to grasp that that rosy scenario is the result of record numbers of job-seekers exiting from the labor force because they have given up searching for jobs in the private sector. Meanwhile, employment in the public sector and in industries benefiting from taxpayer-financed subsidies for “green” products and services has surged. Such “jobs” would not be on offer otherwise and, as even government statistics during the 1930s recognized, should not be included in the civilian labor force.

Personal liberty rarely has been in such danger. Vote in November as you want, but don’t do so expecting the proverbial free lunch. Benefits supplied by government must be paid for eventually, even if, as John Maynard Keynes once said famously, in the long run everyone is dead. But your children and grandchildren will not be.

William F. Shughart II is a Distinguished Research Advisor and Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the J. Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice at Utah State University, past President of the Public Choice Society as well as the Southern Economic Association, and editor of the Independent book, Taxing Choice.
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