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Newt Should Keep His Eye On The Enemy: Big Government


Economic Viewpoint

NEWT SHOULD KEEP HIS EYE ON THE ENEMY: BIG GOVERNMENT

Having been convinced by the liberal media that Newt Gingrich extremism would cost them control of Congress in last November's elections, Republicans are shell-shocked to find themselves still in command of this potentially powerful institution. However, they have no idea what to do with it. Sensing as much, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned them against a grab-bag agenda devoid of political principle. Gingrich was deaf to her message. Shortly thereafter, he defined "the great mission" for conservatives for the next generation as saving poverty-stricken children from hopelessness, violence, and drugs. Exiled from the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton has found her voice in, of all places, the Speaker of the House.

There's nothing wrong with saving children, although why Gingrich believes only poor ones are in need is beyond me. Middle-class and rich kids are in no less danger from a morally depraved culture. No children can be saved independently of the ills that beset a society in which Big Government is a secular religion. Newt Gingrich probably has in mind school vouchers as a way of removing poor children from inner-city public schools, but he is deluded if he thinks that private schools escape intrusive government regulation or that teachers in private schools are immune to political correctness and the deconstruction of American values that is standard fare in all the universities at which teachers are schooled.

IMPERIAL JUDGES. America is in a mess because government has everywhere overstepped its bounds. First-graders can't even give their teacher an affectionate pat on the backside without raising legal issues of sexual harassment. The federal judiciary has so run away with the law that prominent scholars such as Robert H. Bork, Robert P. George, Russell F. Hittinger, Richard John Neuhaus, and Hadley P. Arkes speculate about "the end of democracy." George F. Will has labeled our unleashed judiciary a "judge-ocracy." In place of "We the People," serious writers now speak of a regime under which "We the Ruled" now live.

The bureaucracy is also accustomed to exercising power without any statutory or constitutional warrant. For example, both President Clinton and U.S. Senators have acknowledged that wetlands regulations, which have resulted in both property takings and imprisonment, have no statutory basis. Instead of penalizing the offending bureaucrats, they called for codifying with legislation the laws created by unaccountable civil servants. In effect, America is governed by the Sheriff of Nottingham and King John, who make up laws on the spot.

This has happened because naive liberals preached government as a secular religion that could do more good the bigger it got. Government is now so big that it is unaccountable. It would be foolish to expect the judiciary to reform itself and to shed the arbitrary power it has gathered unto its robes in the postwar era, and the bureaucracy is unlikely to give up its "right" to stand statutes on their head or to regulate in their absence.

MISSION CONTROL. Only Congress has the power to restore accountability to the judicial and administrative branches of government. A Republican Party that used Congress for this purpose would be far more popular with the public than one that thinks its mission in life is to cut Medicare and Social Security, pass a balanced-budget amendment, and expand welfare into the private school system through vouchers.

If Gingrich had vision, he would realize that once government is again made accountable, all the problems Republicans fret about would take care of themselves. Without accountable government, no reform of any program will make a bit of difference.

The media spotlight shines more on Congress than on the judiciary or the bureaucracy, and this makes Congress appear to be the least responsible and most corrupt branch of government, catering only to organized interests in order to secure the necessary campaign contributions for reelection. Congress' disrepute no doubt makes my proposal that Capitol Hill restore government accountability sound farfetched.

Congress nevertheless has abundant power to do the necessary job. It will take impeachment of judges and assistant secretaries to get the message out that usurpation of the legislative function will not be tolerated. Indeed, if the Republican Congress would rid itself of the silly idea that it needs to define itself by passing more laws and, instead, address the perversion of the ones on the books, it would find itself leading the most popular revolution since 1776.By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS


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