"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom," said Benjamin Franklin. "As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." If one regularly reads The New York Times, he is left with the impression that today's Americans have lost too many of the virtues of their Founding Fathers. In one of his most recent interventionist hymns, economist Paul Krugman extols the role of "Big Government" in preventing what he and other doomsayers claimed to be unavoidable just a few months ago. Mid-August reports from the Federal Reserve give indications that the latest recession is over, and that despite the few months of steep decline, a new decade-long Great Depression will not come to pass.
Does that make the radical left happy? Of course not. Revolutionaries are never really happy unless the sky is falling and everyone else is miserable. Those in Krugman's camp are too extreme even for the most socialistic administration in America's history. They have been warning incessantly from the beginning of Obama's term, that the president spends too little too slow. Now, with an upbeat central bank, they have new things to worry about. The process of magically transforming government IOUs into Fed IOUs---i.e., pumping green into the economy through the Federal Open Market Committee---could slow down. God forbid that Bernanke should raise the interest rates above zero or that Congress should make a deal with the fiscal hawks not to dig into some of the "Recovery and Reinvestment" barrels of pork. Oh waily, waily, it would be 1937 all over again.
Unfortunately, what often stays hidden from the general public is the root of the disagreement between the cheerleaders for the visible hand of government and their laissez-faire competitors in the current debate over the "Stimulus." It is time to understand that ours is not so much a difference in professional opinions on the workings of the economy---even Krugman knows that deficits are bad. The major disagreement is on the goals we set and the price we are willing to pay (or let someone else pay for us). It is ultimately a clash of values, an irreconcilable difference between those who want a cloudless life for themselves (NOW please) and those who do not want to see our children enslaved for our transgressions.