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The Constitutional Populist Realignment Of 2012

How to create tens of millions of jobs, good jobs?  Much hinges on the answer to this question.

Long gone are the golden Reagan-Clinton years that saw almost 40 million new positions created.  In the decade since Clinton left office America created a paltry 3 million under George W. Bush, and Barack Obama recently was scored as having the worst job creation for a first period in office of any president since 1890, excepting Hoover.

The Permanent Government seems confused about what to say, much less do, to turn this around.  The Insipid Recovery’s threat to turn into a Double Dip is starting to concentrate the mind of the political class wonderfully.  D.C., where our tax dollars go to die, finally is beginning to focus on the right question: How to create jobs?

There are two theories. Progressives believe that the answer lies in government job creation (stimulus, bailouts, “shovel-ready” public works).  Supply-siders believe that the answer lies exclusively in human action, entrepreneurs and businesspeople, and that the government needs to get its boot off our necks.   Watch Fight of the Century for a wonderful rap version of the debate — between Keynes and Hayek — produced by John Papola and Russ Roberts.

President Obama, cheered on by the elites, relied on the power of government to create jobs … and failed.  Reagan and Clinton relied on the free market.  They were attacked as tools of the plutocrats for doing so yet delivered the goods: massive job growth.

Notwithstanding Obama’s catastrophic failure, the elites, as exemplified by Gregory Ip, of The Economist, writing recently in The Washington Post, “The Republicans new voodoo economics” wish for a continuation of government stimulating the economy by spending and monetary policy.

Constitutional populists, like the Tea Party Patriots, demand a return to free market principles to create jobs.  Top notch populists such as Victor Davis Hanson, writing in National Review, anticipate bidding an unsentimental farewell to “A Tottering Technocracy.”

Elites, of course, find being criticized for their failures unbearable.  Consider the explosive reaction to Gov. Rick Perry’s acid criticism of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.  Perry said that “printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history, is almost treacherous, or treasonous….”

This is consummate free market constitutional populism. Yet our governing elite has lost its bearings and even its moorings in historical reality. Perry’s views on what now is euphemistically called “quantitative easing” are virtually indistinguishable from those of a lot of irresponsible maniacs including most of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and such disreputable figures as Thomas Paine, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

It’s easy to forget, once we’ve cleaned them up and chiseled them into nice, sanitary, granite that the Founders were, literally and figuratively, the Tea Partiers of their day.  They too were scorned by their elitists, the Royalists, as seditious riffraff.  Polite society heaped our Founders with much the same contempt as our governing class now reserves for the modern Tea Party.

And most, if not quite all, of the Founders virulently attacked the same darn thing as did Mr. Perry: funny money.  Those who wrote and championed the Constitution and the statesmen of young America detested the idea of funny money like Federal Reserve Notes. Real money was, exclusively, gold and silver.  They, like Perry, considered their era’s “quantitative easing” both immoral and economically toxic.

Paine:  “As to the assumed authority of any assembly in making paper money, or paper of any kind, a legal tender, or in other language, a compulsive payment, it is a most presumptuous attempt at arbitrary power. There can be no such power in a republican government: the people have no freedom — and property no security — where this practice can be acted: and the committee who shall bring in a report for this purpose, or the member who moves for it, and he who seconds it merits impeachment, and sooner or later may expect it.”  “… and the punishment of a member who should move for such a law ought to be death.”

Washington:  “We are fast verging to anarchy & confusion! … They are determined to annihilate all debts public & private, and have Agrarian Laws, which are easily effected by the means of unfunded paper money which shall be a tender in all cases whatever.”

Jefferson: “Paper money is liable to be abused, has been, is, and forever will be abused, in every country in which it is permitted.”

Madison: “The extension of the prohibition [of paper money] must give pleasure to every citizen, in proportion to his love of justice and his knowledge of the true springs of public prosperity.”

Even Rick Perry didn’t call for the death penalty.  But his sense of moral outrage was much the same as that of Paine, Washington, Jefferson and Madison — and many, many other figures revered for integrity and wisdom.

Hanson sums up:

We are living in one of the most unstable — and exciting — periods in recent memory, as much of the received wisdom of the last 30 years is being turned upside down. In large part the present reset age arises because our political and cultural leaders exercised influence that by any rational standard they had never earned.

Being a republic(an) isn’t for the fainthearted.  The sainted Jefferson once wrote “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  One can imagine the outrage which this violation of Civility by Jefferson would have provoked at the Huffington Post (if they deemed him conservative).  Compared to Jefferson or Paine Rick Perry thus far has proved himself to be a model of rhetorical restraint.

Will 2012 go down as the year of Constitutional Populist Realignment in which the American political rank and file decisively reins in the elites?

To read the rest of this column, click here: 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphbenko/2011/08/22/the-constitutional-populist-realignment-of-2012/


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