Progressive economists are enthralled with the prospect of President Biden’s new $6 trillion spending spree. They celebrate the idea that all this money will soon be pumping its way through the system, bringing prosperity and happiness to all Americans. Through more government, all problems will fade away.
There is an air of unconcern about the whole affair. It is as if this mammoth spending is natural, normal. Never mind that the treasury has no $6 trillion, and increased taxation and borrowing will be needed to make it happen.
A Socialist Project Not an Economic Stimulus
The Administration casually frames this spending as a stimulus to boost an ailing economy. It would deny the charge that it is a socialist project.
However, the socialist nature of this wasteful spending is proven through this unconcern. Consequently, the best way to attack the spending spectacular is to denounce this socialist mentality. It defines the left much more than dismal economic theories.
A Wrong Notion on How Society Should Be Structured
The Administration spends with abandon because of its wrong notion about how society should be structured. Its idea of society is contrary to what it should be. That is why a socialist government not only spends massive amounts of money to survive but why there will never be enough money to suffice for all its needs. At six trillion dollars, Biden’s socialist Administration is just getting started.
This government’s socialist mentality contrasts with the wise Catholic principle of subsidiarity that informs a contrary mindset. Defining this principle will make its opposite much clearer.
The Principle of Subsidiarity
The principle of subsidiarity plays out in a rich social environment. It presupposes a society where every family, social group, profession, region and state tend to come together to address their needs under natural leaderships. In addition, each social unit uses its riches, beauties and resources in a production that is guided by custom and common sense.
Solving problems at the lowest possible level is at the core of the principle of subsidiarity. Thus, each social unit provides for its own needs and only has recourse to a higher unit or authority for matters too big for it to handle. The higher levels in society’s structure are subsidiary to the lower ones, existing to serve them. The 1991 papal encyclical Centesimus Annus states this well: “A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”
The Heart and Soul of the Economy
Thus organized, social units are full of non-economic processes. These are sources of immense material and spiritual wealth, are largely uncompensated, remain unrecorded and defy quantification. They constitute vast sectors of society and are the heart and soul of all economies.
When each social unit takes care of its own, it assumes most of the related expenses. The family, for example, assumes the functions of child and old-age care at no cost to the State. The Church provides healthcare and education based on alms or charity. A close-knit community offers the security of watching over each other without resorting to tax-funded services. National, State, or local professional organizations take care of the matters proper to each.
Charity, art and culture find free and natural expression inside this vast, rich world of self-sufficiency.
The Proper Role of Government
While necessary, the government should play a minor and often symbolic role in the daily lives of its citizens. It should take care of those matters like defense and foreign policy that lie beyond the capacities of society’s lower units.
Because of this vast social infrastructure of healthy families and communities, national budgets should be much smaller than the present gigantic ones. The question should be not how much money must be spent, but why it must be spent at all.
This subsidiary mindset could not be more contrary to the socialist mentality in power today.
Socialists Build a Broken Society
The socialist mentality does not assume a rich social environment composed of hierarchical and harmonious social units. Instead, it is centered on individuals that form the vast masses of people, all seeking fulfillment. The family and other intermediary social units are seen as oppressive structures inherited from the past. They inhibit the socialist ideals of total equality and freedom.
According to the socialist mentality, only the government can help the individual achieve equality and freedom. It flattens everyone and society through taxation, regulation and legislation. By destroying public morals, it gives free rein to every vice.
The result is a society where the social units are weakened and broken. The natural and rich social structures that assume responsibility and expense for so many things are crushed.
The State elbows its way in to absorb the functions of these lower social units. Moreover, since these functions are not natural to the State, government bureaucrats exercise them badly, inefficiently and with robotic coldness. The simplest task becomes an expensive burden on the public purse. One homeless individual suffering from mental problems, for example, can keep an army of police, hospital staff and social workers busy. In past times, such cases were handled by the family or religious orders at no cost to the State.
The Socialist Mentality’s Unquenchable Thirst for Spending
The socialist mentality finds nothing wrong with this scenario. Socialists see the function of the government as providing for every need of the individual in his quest for total equality and freedom.
The government exercises not a subsidiary but a supercilious and authoritarian role. Thus, socialists manifest great enthusiasm for government programs that provide childcare, welfare, medical and education benefits, and public housing as entitlements, not last resort options. The ideal is that government supply everyone with guaranteed, universal basic income removing the need to work. Socialist citizens with higher incomes should feel happy at being taxed more heavily so that many others can live well without working.
Thus, the socialist mentality makes spending sprees the norm, triggering the troubles aptly pegged by Margaret Thatcher: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
It could be no other way. When the government absorbs all the functions that are not its own, it needs vast amounts of money to carry out badly the roles it usurped.
Why not call the $6 trillion spending spree by its real name? Socialist recklessness.
Photo Credit: The White House