President Harding proved, in government, less is more | NevadaAppeal.com

President Harding proved, in government, less is more

Craig DeFreiz
Special to the Nevada Appeal

In this unsettled time of economic, social and political turmoil, we should reconsider the American tradition of the proper role of government. The single most important function of government is to secure the natural rights and freedoms of individual citizens.

The key to our constitutional form of self-government is this: The people can only give government such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. These include the right to defend ourselves, our property and our freedom. Collective rights can only properly be based on individual rights.

Under our Constitution, government cannot claim the power to redistribute wealth or force citizens to perform acts of charity against their will – this is legalized plunder. Taxes can only be justified when they are for the common good.

When government takes property, or income, or freedoms from one group of people and gives them to another group of people, they are violating this basic premise of constitutional government. Make no mistake; this is the philosophy of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao; not the philosophy of Jefferson, Madison, Washington and Adams.

When Presidents Bush and Obama urged passage of their bailout schemes, they argued that only decisive government action would prevent the economy from slipping into a depression. The flawed premise is that state intervention is necessary to revive economic activity.

We would do better to heed the evidence of history. After World War I, the county was in a recession. The Federal Reserve inflated the money supply, much as it is doing today. The economy further stalled and by the middle of 1920 the downturn had become severe.

Rather than take further government action to try to correct the problem, President Harding didn’t call for more government spending and increased debt – he called for cutting back. He understood the fundamentals of boom, bust and recovery better than any president since, saying, “We inflated in haste, we must deflate in deliberation. We debased the dollar in reckless finance, we must restore in

honesty.”

He allowed the economy to take its losses and readjust naturally. As a result, the recession was short-lived, followed by a period of economic expansion and prosperity.

A decade later, as another recession gripped the nation, a new president followed a different course of action involving massive government intervention, creation of new bureaucracies, and intrusive regulations on industry. The result was 10 years of a Great Depression that was only alleviated by the advent of World War II.

There is a direct lesson here for us to learn. What should the government do to help our current economic situation? Do nothing. History, the Constitution, common sense, and prudence all support that response.

• Craig DeFriez is a structural engineer and a 20-year resident of Carson City.