When Corzine took over the two-and-a-quarter-century-old firm, he moved it big-time into sovereign debt — because you can’t lose with sovereign debt, right? Because a nation, even one that is in any objective sense bankrupt as Mediterranean Europe basically is, is not bankrupt in the sense that a homeowner or small business is: Corzine figured, reasonably enough, that no matter the balance sheets of Portugal, Spain, Italy, and the rest, they’d somehow be propped up unto the end of time. As their credit ratings hit the express elevator to Sub-Basement Level Four, Corzine was taken down with them. The smart guy made a bet on government and lost. That’s where the rest of us are headed: The “you’re not on your own” societal model of Western Europe has run out of people to stick it to.
In Kansas, in his latest reincarnation, the president channeled Theodore Roosevelt in trust-busting mode. “He busted up monopolies,” cooed Obama approvingly, “forcing those companies to compete for consumers with better services and better prices.” But who wields monopoly power today? Washington dominates ever more areas of life, from government-backed mortgages to the government takeover of education loans to Obamacare’s governmentalization of one-sixth of the U.S. economy. In my most recent book, which makes an attractive and thoughtful Christmas gift for the apocalyptically minded loved one in your family, I quote an old joke about the British equivalent of the U.S. antitrust division: “Why is there only one Monopolies Commission?” This is a profound insight into the nature of statism: By definition, there can only be one government — which is why, when it’s “monopolizing,” it should do so only in very limited areas.
Yet, after hymning the virtues of “better services and better prices,” the president went on to issue the latest brain-dead call for increased “investment” in education. America “invests” more per student than any other nation except Switzerland, and it has nothing to show for it other than a vast swamp of mediocrity presided over by a hideous educrat monopoly. Might this fetid maw not benefit from exposure to “better services and better prices”? Perish the thought! Instead, Obama is demanding increased “investment” in “education” in order to “give people the chance to get new skills and training at community colleges so they can learn how to make wind turbines and semiconductors.”
I am not a trained economist, but it is not obvious to me that the United States of America is crying out for more wind turbines, and, if it is, I’m sure many of those colleges’ tenured Race and Social Justice Studies professors could be redeployed to serve as such. In Europe, the political class is beginning to understand that the social-democratic state created to guarantee permanent stability risks plunging the Continent into the worst instability since those happy-go-lucky days of the 1930s. By contrast, in Kansas, the president of the United States is still riding the tie-dyed wind turbine and promising to waft you to Oz. These are dangerous times — and, as many will discover, whatever assurances the statists give, in the end you’ll be on your own.