No, not the book by Fulton Sheen.
This article from theHuffington Post hatches a plan to stick it to Tea Party constituencies. The author, Richard Parker, wants to cut all the spending from the federal budget by denying government services to the districts that elected the Tea Party members in the House of Representatives.
The argument is the following: once the voters lose all the federal support on which they unwittingly rely, they will learn the error of their ways. Corporations will retain their excessive profits, while average folks languish without the federal assistance to national parks and public schools. The ruin will match that of the Reagan years (?!):
Ronald Reagan famously conducted two gigantic and revolutionary "natural experiments" in Republican budget and monetary policy in the 1980s: "supply side" tax cuts recommended by economist Arthur Laffer and Federal Reserve policy run according to Milton Friedman's very strict "monetarist" rules.
Both of Reagan's experiments had legendary results--they failed and were soon abandoned, but only after the federal deficit and debt boomed to their then-highest levels since World War II. The deficit and debt were so large, in fact, that they precipitated a 1980s version of today's gridlock. It was supposed to be solved by automatic spending cuts under the Gramm-Rudman bill. You may not remember, but economists and policy analyst do--that that giant GOP natural experiment didn't work either. It's not an inspiring track record, but who knows: today, thirty years later, perhaps the Tea Party's revolutionary experiment will work.
In case you're wondering if he's joking, oh, I assure you, he is not.
Contrary to what you think, I'm not making this suggestion facetiously--I'm not Jonathan Swift with a "modest proposal" about Irish famine. I'm an Oxford-trained macroeconomist, who has taught macroeconomic policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government for the past 20 years--and what I'm proposing is a quite serious (to me, at least) "natural experiment"....
...I'm willing to give them a chance--but only if they agree to run their experiment first in the congressional districts they control. Economists, you may know, don't often get the chance to test theories in laboratories before, as chemists, biologists, or physicists do. We develop a theory imaginatively, work out the math on a blackboard, perhaps devise a computer software model to look for interactive effects we'd miss otherwise---and then publish in the hopes policymakers will take our advice.
Easily the best part of the article is where the man touts his credentials. I often wonder if he gives the exact same line about his excellent academic lineage when ordering, a little too loudly, his breakfast at IHOP, "As an Oxford-trained economist teaching at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I naturally prefer the Rooty Tooty Fresh N' Fruity. I would like it served on my plastic PhD replica place mat and with a side of noblesse oblige."
Just kidding, someone like him would never be seen there. He'd risk sitting in a booth next to one of those people he's trying to punish.
Anyway, I wish to endorse this experiment whole-heartedly (though, in addition to his plan, I wish for all volunteer members of the military from these districts to return from active duty).
I endorse it because I already know the results. We saw them at the Lincoln Memorial when, after the park service stopped operating, a South Carolina man decided to mow the damned thing himself (you know the South has turned a new leaf when a white man from South Carolina decides to mow the lawn at the Lincoln Memorial). We see them with the volunteers in Detroit. When the state recedes from the lives of Americans, Americans respond with habits and mores more deeply rooted in the frontier tradition: volunteerism and public service societies. As Tocqueville described:
Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types--religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute. Americans combine to give fetes, found seminaries, build churches, distribute books, and send missionaries to the antipodes. Hospitals, prisons, and schools take shape in that way. Finally, if they want to proclaim a truth or propagate some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form an association (V II, Book 2, Chapter 5, Paragraph 3).
Had he not been stopped, this man would have had a dozen strangers helping before he was done.
Of course, Tocqueville also famously feared the encroachment of the state on free associations:
It is easy to see the time coming in which men will be less and less able to produce, by each alone, the commonest bare necessities of life. The tasks of government must therefore perpetually increase, and its efforts to cope with them must spread its net ever wider. The more government takes the place of associations, the more will individuals lose the idea of forming associations and need the government to come to their help. that is a vicious circle of cause and effect. Must the public administration cope with every industrial undertaking beyond the competence of one individual citizen? (Ibid., Paragraph 18).
As we've seen, just beneath the surface, Americans are ready, willing, and able to return to free association. After all, these ideas are far older than the modern administrative state. If the government wants to oblige Parker's petty revenge fantasy, I'll happily enjoy the benefits of a freer, more publicly-spirited community. And the look on his face when the Jaycees open new parks, the Knights of Columbus raise money for the elderly and infirmed, and a local mosque holds a clothing drive will be priceless. It won't be much, because our town doesn't have as much money as the federal government can raise. But it'll be ours.
And when there isn't enough to hand out to the otherwise employable people who found their way onto the dole, they can find their way back into the work force, even if for a meager wage. If they need any help on account of the low wages, then there's plenty of groups around to ask for help out with necessities. When things get a little better, those who ask for some help might just find the time to volunteer too.
Sounds too good to be true? Let's find out. Cut my federal benefits. Please!