By George Nation, professor of finance and law at Lehigh University.
Tonight is the second presidential debate, and I am hopeful that the town-hall format will allow the candidates to present their very different views on the role of government in economic and domestic policy in the 21st century. President Obama sees a larger role the federal government both in the economy and in peoples lives. He truly believes in the superiority of the opinions of government experts over the opinions of regular citizens. It is hard, though, not to see this as patronizing to the voters and at times downright insulting. President Obama simply does not trust the American people to do the right thing. In the President’s mind “right” is, of course, determined by a panel of government experts! Citizens in his view are well meaning perhaps, but so hopelessly ignorant that they simply can’t be trusted to choose the best school for their children, the best health insurance for their family or the best form of energy to use. In the case of Medicare, for example, the President is against giving choice to seniors because at that stage in their lives they may not want to or be able to understand the options well enough to choose wisely. But, even if in some cases that is so, isn’t it better for the senior to have the choice and let the senior’s family help him or her make the best choice? Why does the President believe a government employee can make a better choice?
President Obama believes that the government can better spend our money and run our lives than we can. So in essence the President’s plan for the next four years is the last four years. That is, to have government take more power over our daily lives, more of our money in taxes, and force us to get in line for government issue schools, health insurance, health care and more. The problem is America can’t afford it; we can’t afford another four years like the last four. This is the time for new policies that empower individuals to participate in the free market, not the time to double down on the failed policies of the past.
Governor Romney sees a more modest though vitally important role for the federal government in economic and domestic issues. Mr. Romney sees the government’s role to level the playing field and increase transparency so that all participants in the market have an equal chance. But, he does not think that the government should be substituting its choices for those of the citizens in the case of schools, health insurance, healthcare etc. He believes the best way to grow the economy and increase jobs is to increase economic freedom and reduce taxes, especially on small businesses.
Of course with individual autonomy comes individual responsibility, but that is a good thing. Personal freedom and responsibility are the very principles that America was built on, and that in very large part have made America great. This rugged individualism, personal responsibility and personal freedom are exactly what this election is about. It is what we are in danger of losing. This is the essence of the different visions that the candidates have for America. It boils down to this question: In America should the government run the people or should the people run the government? President Obama’s vision is of an America where the government runs the people; Mr. Romney’s is of an America where the people run the government. Which vision will you choose?