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The Mob Howls for More Money!

As a democracy matures it shifts from being a society of makers to a society of takers...

DEMOCRACY is a sordid, mob-driven business, says Bill Bonner, founder of the Daily Reckoning.

The great mass of mankind is neither smart nor dumb, good nor bad. But it is subject to influence. And when it thinks it can vote itself someone else's money it rushes to the ballot box as though to an over-turned beer truck.

Over the century and a half since the invention of modern, social welfare democracy, politicians have learned how to game the system. They promise voters more and more 'benefits.' If they only promised to give voters as much in benefits as they paid in taxes, they would be liars. It costs money to administer a government – lots of it. 

At best, they can only return a portion of what the government receives in tax revenues. But as the welfare states have matured, more and more people found ways to get more and more out of it. From special parking places to tax credits to military contracts... 'benefits' have expanded far beyond what the public can afford.

Bill Buckler, The Privateer, reckons:

Today, the US government 'GOVERNS' 310 million people with an annual budget of nearly $4,000 billion and TOTAL (funded and unfunded) debt approaching US$100,000 billion. It takes about 5,400 times as many Dollars and about 37,000 times more debt to 'govern' about 3.35 times as many people as it did a century ago. Why? The answer is equally simple. Today, the US government 'governs' everything. It is all pervasive. It has taken over the economy from its people.

As a modern democracy matures, it shifts from being a nation of makers to becoming a nation of takers. Wealth and power are gradually transferred from those who earn it to those who use the system to commandeer it. The zombies take over, in other words.

Of course, the more the takers take the less the makers want to make. Arthur Laffer explained this to Ronald Reagan 30 years ago. It was called the Laffer Curve. It explained why you can sometimes reduce tax rates and actually increase tax revenues; and by contrast, you can sometimes also increase tax rates and reduce your tax take.

So, modern, enlightened leaders try to find the optimum tax rate. Trouble is, the vox populii screams for more and more – far beyond the optimum. It wants more regulations, more protections, more cushions to sit on, more bread...and more circuses. It also wants things that go far beyond money. It wants status, privileges, recognition and revenge. It wants to see its enemies punished, its arguments proven, and its fashions, prejudices, and gods imposed on everyone.

The number of government employees rises. But so does the number of private sector employees who do work either required by the governing class...or made profitable because of it. Tax lawyers, for example, would have no income were it not for the complications of the tax system. Naturally, tax lawyers support further complications.

Whole industries are perverted and corrupted. The Pentagon recently revealed a program in which bundles of $100 bills were shipped to Iraq – presumably to pay bribes and bills. A total of $12 billion was loaded on 21 flights, packed in huge C-130 Hercules aircraft. Where did the money go? No one knows. But a Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says $6.6 billion was probably stolen – the largest theft of funds in national history.

In the health care industry, which is supposed to be in the private sector, Healthcare Analytics estimates that as much as $840 billion was wasted in 2009, thanks to various frauds, canoodles and federally-imposed mandates. Chief among these was the unnecessary care delivered to patients, simply because they don't pay their own costs...or because health care professionals fear being sued by government-protected tort lawyers.

In the education industry, also largely underwritten by state and federal subsidies, the number of 'administrators' has been growing at about twice as fast as the number of teachers – for at least the last 13 years. Students and their families pay more and more for a degree and get less and less out of it. And the poor student leaves school with a burden of debt that he will carry for many, many years.

Even greater than the growth of pure government spending is the growth of this kind of private enterprise parasitism, enabled, aided and abetted by the ruling classes. Nowhere is this corporate/government conniving more degenerate than in the heart of capitalism itself – the financial industry. 

The big banks have become public utilities – heavily regulated, petted and coddled by the feds. When the bankers make mistakes – even trillion Dollar mistakes – the feds rush in with public cash to save them. When the bankers make money, they take it home...and send some back to Washington in political contributions.

And this year, for the first time ever, the US government and its subsidiaries are the biggest source of private sector credit.

Of course, it could be worse. Just read the history of the French Revolution...or the Bolshevik revolution...or Cromwell's Revolution...

In each case, the king was killed. What came next was lurid and disgusting.

The advantage of a good monarch is that he can espouse goals and principles that go beyond the next election. That is what could make a monarch particularly valuable now.

As the 20th century progressed, modern welfare states found that they had reached a point where squeezing more blood out of their taxpayers depressed growth rates and reduced tax revenues. The harder they squeezed, the less blood the zombies got. So, they switched from squeezing existing taxpayers to draining those who hadn't even been born yet. The obvious advantage: the future didn't vote. After 1980, when Dick Cheney proclaimed that 'deficits don't matter,' debt to GDP ratios rose steadily in almost all the developed nations. Then, in the last 10 years, they exploded.

Greece, Japan, Ireland, Italy, the US – all have now borrowed so much that they approach bankruptcy. They are on course for destruction. And yet, if they took the right measures now, some might save themselves. At least, America still could.

But how can elected politicians reverse course...when the mob howls for more money?

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Bill Bonner has co-authored a number of New York Times Bestsellers including Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Markets and Messiahs. In his own opinion, Bill's most recent title, A Modest Theory of Civilization: Win-Win or Lose, is his best work yet. Bill also founded The Agora, a worldwide community for private researchers and publishers, in 1979. Financial analysts within the group have exposed and predicted some of the world's biggest shifts since that time, starting with the fall of the Soviet Union back in the late 1980s, to the collapse of the Dot Com (2000) and then mortgage finance (2008) bubbles, and more recently the election of President Trump.

See full archive of Bill Bonner articles

Please Note: All articles published here are to inform your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best place for your money, and any decision you make will put your money at risk. Information or data included here may have already been overtaken by events – and must be verified elsewhere – should you choose to act on it. Please review our Terms & Conditions for accessing Gold News.

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