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If You Were Dictator — Part II


In an earlier post entitled If You Were Dictator it was suggested that we engage in a simple game to see if we could improve the state of our nation today and for the future. This article will describe the reasons for such speculation and what I consider the key areas to focus on. Future articles will deal with specific proposals.

Why This Exercise is Important

As outstanding as our Constitution is/was, it contained flaws. Some of these flaws can be explained in terms of what was necessary at the time to get it accepted. Many of these — slavery, women’s suffrage, etc. — were eventually remedied when it became politically possible to do so. Flaws can still be argued to exist, albeit they tend to be minor save one.

founding-fathers2The primary fault, in my opinion, results from the naivety of the Founders. They understood power and its negative effects. They put in place a system that was supposed to prevent the aggrandizement of power. Unfortunately their naivety was that future leaders would be as noble and honorable as they were. Patriotism and concern for country were assumed to be factors in preserving the intent of the Constitution.

The Founders badly underestimated the dishonor, lying and exploitation that characterizes modern politics. The Constitution’s principles depended on trust and integrity in its leaders. That was its primary defense. Without honorable leaders it becomes little more than a historic artifact. It was meant to withstand the corruption, selfishness and criminal activity that exists today.

Had the Founders envisioned the louts administering the country, they would have put better protections in place. The idea of scoundrels monitoring scoundrels and winking at the Constitution as they enriched themselves at the expense of the public was inconceivable to them. Black-letter law would have with unavoidable and automatic consequences for abrogations should have been included. No criminal ever gets convicted when the jury pool is comprised of similar criminals.

Peers judging peers ensures elastic and eventually meaningless constraints.  Creeping corruption and increasing monetary returns for bending the law prostitutes ethics. What once was considered public service, a sacrifice in lifestyle and financial condition, now is considered a lucrative career. Its lucre comes from more than governmental salaries and perquisites.

Public service today is the new criminal class. Not everyone who is on the government payroll is a criminal, but it has become the easiest way for a glib and convincing criminal to become an easy millionaire, legally at least in the eyes of fellow criminals who must judge him. Successful and accomplished men rarely run for public office. Instead, the vocation is now dominated by a modern-day version of the grifter, con artist, hustler and any number of other  unflattering terms.

What follows is a listing of what I consider the most important issues to be addressed.

The Money Issue

Big government produces big opportunities. Willie Sutton famously explained why he robbed banks: “Because that is where the money is.” Were Willie still alive, he would not be robbing banks, he would be holding public office.

The rewards to office are now so great that they have produced a new form of criminal. Lying, extortion, bribery, selling favors etc. are routine. Government ethics has become an oxymoron. It is doubtful that any elected official is innocent, at least beyond his first year. All would be vulnerable were honest investigations to prevail.

Congressmen sitting in judgment of other Congressmen is akin to a jury made up of the Mafia determining the fate of one of their bosses. To blow the cover off another Congressman’s scam is to threaten your own. There may be little loyalty among thieves, but there is a lot among Congressmen. Their public personas are fronts for the criminal behavior behind the scene. No one wants to blow the whistle on another for fear that he might be next. No one wants to jeopardize the hypocrisy contained in the phrase “my honorable friend” by subjecting him to real justice.

The Spending Issuegovernmentallspending

Government spends without constraints. Its members are incentivized to do so. That is how they stay in office. Eventually markets and insolvency issues will stop this behavior, but most of the perpetrators will be long gone. Those left will not suffer as much as the nation.

No government program is ever eliminated. All are considered too important to even cut back. Much of this spending is merely vote buying, pandering to various constituencies. There is no incentive or mechanism to stop this behavior until it is too late.

The chart to the right shows all government spending (federal, state and local) as a percentage of GDP since 1920.

total-spending-2015The chart to the left shows federal spending proposed for 2015 and how it is allocated.

In recent years, much of the federal spending has been done using deficits.

Beyond what is called spending are hidden icebergs, much more troubling than acknowledged spending. These are unfunded promises such as pensions, Social Security and Medicare. This is as true at the state and local level as it is at the federal level. The present value of the unfunded liabilities associated with Medicare and Social Security are estimated between $100 and 200 trillion.

The Regulatory Issues

reg2reg1The United States is arguably the most regulated country in the world. Some of these regulations are targeted (often inappropriately) at behavior that is harmful. Most however are inappropriate and done for political or monetary purposes. These play to ignorant constituencies or are rent-seeking in nature. The latter case includes protectionism for companies against competitors.

Almost all laws and regulations are deliberately mis-named. Many are sold on promises that are 180 degrees of what is in the law and will happen.

A recent case in point is the “Free Trade Agreement.” A Free Trade Agreement need contain only one or two sentences, not a thousand pages. Buried in those thousand pages are favors for friends and penalties for enemies.

Regulation is necessary, but to what degree? Most of what is passing off for regulation today is political bribery and/or extortion. The costs of administering the regulations have soared over time, but the real cost is to free markets. These regulations make markets less efficient and more expensive.

The Tax Issues

taxcodesizeTaxes are no different than other regulations.

The tax code in the US is more than 70,000 pages.

Our tax code is a disgrace, put together by lobbyists and rent-seeking politicians. Each is seeking advantage at the expense of competitors or ordinary taxpayers.

These regulations represent the quid in the wide-spun web of corporate welfare. The quo in the nefarious bargain is some form of enrichment for the politician(s) who championed the tax breaks.

No one understands the tax code. Almost every individual or corporation who files a tax return is subject to penalties and fines because their reading of the tax code differs from that of some government bureaucrat.

Studies have been done using CPA tax experts to fill out not overly complicated tax returns. The experts invariably come up with different amounts of taxes owed.

Studies using IRS advice show similar disparities. Even IRS experts cannot agree on what their own tax codes says and means.

Beyond the issue of taxes themselves, the IRS is the most powerful agency in government. It is capable of destroying a person or business. It is easily used to punish enemies and reward friends. It is the quintessential example of tyrannical rule.

What Would You Do?

The above discussed some of the major problems that are literally destroying the economy and the country.

If you were dictator for a week, what would you do? I will present my suggestions in follow-up articles on this topic. In the meantime, I am open to any and all suggestions from readers.





10 thoughts on “If You Were Dictator — Part II”

  1. “No one understands the tax code.”
    I do.
    It’s theft. Enhanced with the niceties of extortion.
    The taking of another person’s money/property/freedom at gunpoint is theft.
    The questionable presence of the 16th Amendment doesn’t change the fact: it’s theft.
    A few hundred so-called “elected leaders” agreeing on the theft doesn’t sanctify, justify or rationalize it; that’s called “tyranny”.
    Despite a supreme court justice saying ” Taxes are what we pay for civilized society”, it is still theft.
    Theft via government force is immoral and contrary to Freedom.

    If “government” must exist (and it doesn’t), change the funding of a minimalist government to one of voluntarily paid fees. If the result is Insufficient Funds to run even the smallest of “government”, shrink it more or, better yet, eliminate it.

    Sadly, though, even if our Dictator of the Week were to do the above, the game is rigged: the benefits would only be enjoyed for 168 hours…

    1. Harry Reid told me that taxes are already voluntary. Perhaps he had a different view of “voluntary.” He probably thinks eating is also voluntary. You need not do it if you don’t mind the consequences.

      Taxes are indeed theft and they are likely to remain. Lowering them and then maintaining them at some lower level is probably the best that even a dictator can hope to achieve.

  2. Proposal: Make Constitutional review a valid function of the Supreme Court, so that it is not the UnConstitutional arrogation that it currently is. Next, provide an additional check on the Supreme Court –impeachment by Congress is not enough, because the Supreme Court can side with Congress in a power-grab against the PEOPLE, as they currently do time and again. It must be a check that does not rely upon Congress. I would propose an election by the state legislatures, held every five years, to retain or discharge any or all of the justices. (This check could take other forms, but it needs to exist in some form.) Next, repeal the 17th Amendment to strengthen the sovereignty of the states. And on my last day as temporary dictator, I would deliver a speech reminding everyone that virtuous self-government is rare in the history of the world and will be ours only so long as we defend the flame.

    1. These comments are closer to a meaningful and possible solution. What is missing is an OR ELSE! trigger. By that, I mean if this happens then something else automatically happens.

      The Supremes are employees of the Mafia. Why would they rule against their employers?

      I hope to get another article written before this weekend when the grandchildren arrive. Chaos is not conducive to writing. (There are probably a series of three or four coming.)

      After that, off to Minnesota for a week of for more wonderful, family chaos. Tough to be productive under these conditions.

      Thanks for your interest in this topic.

  3. Add to the Constitution the following clause: “…AND WE REALLY MEAN IT.” This is facetious, of course. The Constitution already requires that its officers–the President, Congress, the Court–swear an oath to defend it. They swear it, then promptly go on the attack against it. No, the Constitution is an almost perfect blueprint for self-government, but it could only last as long as the people were educated and virtuous.

    1. And that is the problem, precisely. The political process offers no hope of providing one, hence the fantasy exercise in a series of articles (to come). How, as dictator, would you combat the issue you properly defined?

  4. Enforce the General Welfare Clause, as well as the 9th and 10th Amendments to the US Constitution. Constitutional amendment: rent-seeking and rent-extraction now outlawed by the National Govt.

  5. Enforce the General Welfare Clause, as well as the 9th and 10th Amendments to the US Constitution. Constitutional amendment: rent-seeking and rent-extraction now outlawed by the National Govt.

    1. I don’t disagree with your suggestions except they have been in place and have been ignored. Everything necessary was included in the Constitution except the ability to make the criminals conform to the black-letter laws they swore to uphold.

  6. Pingback: If You Were Dictator – Part II | Crony Capitalism

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