Gary Hofmeister: A nation stuck
July 10, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Worldview. We speak of it many times as regards different subjects: sometimes religion, sometimes geo-politico and oftentimes economic theory. It's taken more than two years, but some Republican candidates are finally realizing what certain pundits have written about almost from the beginning of this administration. That President Barack Obama and virtually all of his team have a completely different view of "totally transforming the American economy" than most of the electorate thought they were getting. Hope and change, as vapid as those words are, meant moving America into the Social Democratic Western European model — read: quasi-socialist government mode of not owning but controlling most of the economy. It's a lousy system Europe is turning away from while Obama is adopting it.
In my undergraduate and graduate college work, all of my professors were liberal, which led to my accepting that viewpoint before venturing out in the real world. But one particular situation early on was memorable in jolting my common sense to question the methodology of how the liberals would make the world more "fair and just." We were discussing farm policy regarding how over-supplies and under-supplies are a recurrent problem. If a product brought abundance to the market, farmers would plant more and thus depress prices. If it brought less, they shunned it, bringing the price up. My professor's solution was to give government bureaucrats the power to mandate "market controls" dictating what each farmer should produce. Even at age 18, that struck me as idiotic, that these nonfarmers could mandate quotas necessary to produce equilibrium for 300 million consumers and farmers alike. And even if they did, how would they enforce it?
Fifty years hence, I have a déjà vu of my professor being reincarnated into a Harvard-educated president with the hubris to think he is smart enough to manipulate all facets of our economy in this manner. This mindset further leads to that defining characteristic of the true liberal, which is a condescending attitude that the brilliant ruling class must lead the way in controlling citizens' daily lives because they would surely mess it up themselves if allowed the freedom to make judgments on their own.
To say our conservative worldview is the antithesis is an understatement. Indeed, the man who articulated our beliefs only a generation ago did so beautifully by echoing the founding fathers and giants such as Abraham Lincoln. Ronald Reagan spoke often of We, The People and the necessity of government getting out of the way so the creativity, intelligence and energy of the American people could be unleashed. And wow! Did it work! Although Reagan had to take the heat in '81 and '82 for allowing a 10 percent unemployment, which led to his losing the Senate and many seats in the House, the tax cutting and regulation cutbacks spurred a quick rebound from that recession (7 percent growth vs. Obama's 2 percent), which smoothed the way to his overwhelming re-election in '84. Even more important, this became the foundation for the 30-plus years economic expansion that continued right up to 2008.
And contrary to so many pessimistic business people nowadays, I'm a firm believer that with the proper structure of the economy, this is possible again. Reagan famously said that our best days still are ahead of us. Obama thinks government leading the way will make this happen. It has failed. We are stuck. Prosperity happens when government gets out of the way. This also means a much more humble approach that Reagan personified by trusting the People, not himself and his czars to blind us with their brilliance and controls. Move aside, fellas.
Gary Hofmeister is the owner and operator of Hofmeister Personal Jewelers in downtown Steamboat Springs, a company he founded in 1973. He is a director of The Steamboat Institute and a former Republican nominee for Congress in the 10th District of Indiana. He made 18 trips to the former USSR to teach democratic-capitalism during the 1990s.