Texas, California, and the Future of Self-Government

Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner:

In [the last] 10 years, Texas gained 732,800 private sector jobs….The nation overall lost 2 million private sector jobs, with the biggest losses coming in California [which lost] 623,700….

The lesson of the previous decade seems clear:  if you take a previously prosperous and creative state and subject it to high taxes and intrusive regulations, it loses 5% of its private sector jobs; if you take a previously somewhat less prosperous and creative state and govern it with low taxes and light regulation, it gains 9% more jobs, even as the nation’s economy is suffering.

That’s the lesson of the last decade, all right.  To which Michael might easily have added that we had presented to us essentially the identical lesson a decade-and-a-half before that, when Ronald Reagan cut taxes and rolled back regulations, initiating nearly a quarter century of economic expansion, and that we had presented to us, yet again, nearly the same lesson two decades before that, when John Kennedy pushed through a reduction in income taxes that Arthur Schlesinger himself called “massive,” fostering a big burst in growth.

I don’t want to sound overwrought or melodramatic here, but the following couple of propositions strike me as simply true:

1.)  An essential component of democracy–of the ideal of self-governance–is that we will respond to the facts.  That we will examine actual, lived experience, adjusting our preferences and policies accordingly.  That we will learn the lessons of our history.

2.)  What is at stake in the elections next year:  the future of self-governance itself.  For what we have in the administration of Barack Obama is a president and coterie of staffers and administrators who are elitist to the point of representing a kind of high priesthood.  The facts?  The lessons of history?  The place themselves against and above it, insisting that their faith (and, since it is entirely unsupported by any actual experience, it is a faith) supersedes the experience of the American people.  Bigger government, higher taxes, more regulations, looser money, and the proliferation of agencies accountable to none but the executive branch–all this will somehow lead to jobs and economic growth.  

Barack Obama is less a working politician in the American tradition than a shaman.  He asks us–he insists–that we unlearn what we know. “Who you gonna believe?” he asks.  ”Me or your lyin’ eyes?”

Either we Americans reject this demand that we surrender the first prerogative of free peoples–the informed use of our own experience–or–or?  Or we will in some absolutely basic way have proven ourselves unworthy of the ideal of self-government for which those whom we celebrate on this Memorial Day weekend fought and died.