The great French economist, Frederic Bastiat, knew exactly what he was talking about…even if he was writing in the mid 1800s. In his 1848 essay, Government, Bastiat made the great insight:
Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
This quote has proven true time and time again over the years as people exploit their powers to enrich and promote their interests and the interests of their donors through all facets of government. Nothing better proves this “great fiction” than the recent information released by the U.S. Census Bureau that 7 of the top 10 wealthiest counties in the United States (as measured by median household income) resided near the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C.
What does this concentration of wealth near Washington indicate? Is it that that areas around the capital are producing cutting edge technology yielding high values of production and increasing our nation’s economic capacity? Of course not. The increase in wealth is an indication of the lucrative lifestyles possible for government employees and successful lobbyists who have perfected the craft of buying off politicians in return for receiving special tax breaks and subsidies.
As government continues to become little more than a massive system of redistribution directing money towards those most politically connected, expect this trend to continue in recent years. As government regulations continue to have an increasingly negative affect on companies’ profits and ability to operate, more and more businesses will continue to locate their offices as close to Washington as possible in an attempt to have access to lawmakers.
Bastiat’s quote from 1848 shows a remarkable astute observation about the very nature of government and its relationship to the economic sphere. Conservatives are “outraged” over the statistics showing increasing percentages of Americans living on the government dole, and rightfully so. But where is the outrage on the politically well-connected exploiting the system to increase their power and wealth at the expense of the American taxpayer?
Both political parties (and the corporations and individuals behind them) are “endeavoring to live at the expense of everyone else”. Both political parties use government as nothing more than a tool by which they can exert and expand their power. And what else should we expect from such a system as this? Bastiat saw this reality over one hundred and fifty years ago…it’s time for the rest of us to see it as well.
(By the way, if you have not read The Law, by Frederic Bastiat I highly recommend you check it out. It a quick read at only 50-some odd pages and can be accessed here for free).