Mario J. Rizzo**
The GOP has taken control of the Senate, increased its margin in the House, and gained many state houses. I say, “So what?” or maybe “So what!” To understand my attitude it is important to think in long historical periods. The Republican Party has triumphed before. It has made promises of change before. I do not deny that some good things happened and some bad things were prevented as a result. But, alas, bad things have happened as well, like the Iraq War and the PATRIOT Act to choose only two examples.
The fact of the matter is that, quite simply, the march of statism in the twentieth century has been pretty steady with some temporary slowdowns. What we need is a radical reconsideration of the role of the state in American society. We do not need to recover trust in government; the need is for ever more mistrust, so the “government habit” might begin to be broken. The GOP will not give us this. Obviously, the Democrat Party also will not. Americans do not yet seem ready to embrace another (new) political party.
I am thus pessimistic about the political process insofar as it might be a source of calm, reasoned reform. Nevertheless, I think that continued gridlock and growing incompetence in administration of welfare state programs along with tax-funding problems will put needed additional stress on the system. The welfare state will be reformed only when the state is incapable of delivering the goods in a satisfactory way. I am “optimistic” that this will occur. Remember the Soviet Union collapsed not because of reasoned reform but because of its inner contradictions and tensions.
In the meanwhile we must continue the important process of education in the classical liberal tradition – in economics, law, philosophy and so-forth. When the welfare state finally begins to fall apart we need an abundance of people knowledgeable enough to provide alternatives when they are finally in demand.
So I cannot look to the GOP for hope. Instead I look to organizations like the Cato Institute, the Independent Institute, the Institute for Humane Studies, the Institute for Justice and, of course, to the Classical Liberal Institute at the NYU Law School for my hope. Ideas are the fount of my hope.
*Psalms 146:3 (Young's Literal Translation)
**Dr. Mario J. Rizzo is associate professor of economics and co-director of the Austrian Economics Program at New York University. He currently lectures for the Institute for Humane Studies and is an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.