Volume 10 - How to Stay Free
The Great Depression of the 1930s changed the public philosophy regarding
the appropriate role of government in American life. Before the Depression,
government was not assumed to have special responsibilities for individual
or business welfare. The severity of the economic tragedy of the 1930s
resulted in a dramatic change in public attitudes. Many believed the
Depression represented a "failure of capitalism." Because
of this alleged failure, government has ever since been expanding
its power and the scope of its control. Government growth has resulted
in waste, inefficiency, and a loss of personal freedom. Intended to
serve the interests of the people, many governmental programs have
been revealed to serve primarily the interests of the bureaucrats.
Many government programs serve at cross purposes. For example, different
agencies attempt, on the one hand, to discourage use of tobacco as
potentially dangerous to good health and, on the other hand, to encourage
production of tobacco through subsidies to tobacco farmers. The list
of government inconsistencies and inefficiencies goes on and on. Dr.
Friedman, however, says that there is reason for optimism. Today,
he notes, the public is better informed about these matters and is
increasingly willing to take a stand against further unnecessary expansion
of government services. He suggests the most fruitful approach is
to remove discretionary budget power from the government. Friedman
favors passage of a Constitutional amendment limiting the government's
budget and forcing government to work within that budget. But this
is only the first step. As Dr. Friedman points out, "What we
need is widespread public recognition that the central government
should be limited to its basic functions: defending the nation against
foreign enemies, preserving order at home, and mediating our disputes.
We must come to recognize that voluntary cooperation through the market
and in other ways is a far better way to solve our problems than turning
them over to the government."