Vice President Kamala Harris was recently asked by the host of “Tha God’s Honest Truth” (not surprisingly for Comedy Central, a blasphemous show name since the host often deals in falsehood) who the president was, Joe Biden or Joe Manchin. Obviously, our current President of the United States is Joe Biden. So why the question?
It’s because of the rules of our republic. The President of the United States is not a dictator. He can’t borrow and spend with abandon unless he has the permission of at least a bare majority of both Houses of Congress, and Joe Manchin happens to be a Democrat willing to say no.
But it’s clear that the host of “Tha God’s Honest Truth” wants a dictator. Many on the left want a strongman leader who will run roughshod over the rule of law, over our constitutional republic’s norms, and over basic freedoms to get whatever it is they want. They wanted Joe Biden to ride into Washington, twist arms, break legs, issue edicts, pack courts and, otherwise do whatever it took to get his (their) way.
Would that only the left desired that one central office run everything.
Fact is, in one Republican-led state after another, governors think of themselves as the CEO of their state’s economy, and legislatures are all too anxious to grant power as if it were true. Oklahoma is no exception. All you have to do is look at programs like the Quick Action Closing Fund, Quality Jobs programs, and the Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021 to see that this is true.
Sure, supposedly there are objective criteria to determine if someone receives these subsidies, but many of the criteria are prospective. There’s no way to really know if what’s anticipated will actually come true. And you can’t actually claw back funds from an enterprise that’s gone belly-up; sometimes, yes, that happens.
But what’s even more problematic than the programs themselves is the conception of government that underlies them. This is the idea that government is THE source of our prosperity (of course, the right sort of government is critical for individuals to create society’s prosperity). It’s the idea that people in government are smart enough, clairvoyant enough, and wise enough to make the correct choices about which industries are favored over others. And what’s most disgusting is the idea that subsidies to high-paying industries with money taken from the pockets of individuals with more modest incomes somehow benefits those whose pockets have been picked, when there is absolutely no such certainty.
A man by the name of Hernando de Soto, an economist from Peru, trying to explain Peru’s political troubles, poverty, and lack of development decades ago, once made the point that Americans seemed to think Peru was democratic. We thought this, he said, because Peru elects presidents who are limited to a single 6-year term. He made the point that under their laws and customs, they actually were electing a new dictator – someone with nearly unlimited power – every six years.
None of this is to say that the governor’s office in Oklahoma should not have more power over the government of Oklahoma. This state doesn’t have 3 branches of government. It actually has dozens once all the self-funded agencies and constitutionally independent entities like TSET and the corporation commission are thrown in. Some consolidation in Oklahoma’s state government is therefore badly needed. But the bottom line is that a governor – any governor – is and should be the CEO of state government, but should never be the CEO of the state’s economy. There have been CEOs of economies; their titles and names include Pharaoh, King, Czar, Stalin, Mao, and Castro, and their people tended to be poor.
Entrepreneurial, hard-working Oklahomans need – nay, deserve – a state with no income tax, governments that favor no one, including Hollywood producers, over anyone else, schools that educate everyone to their full potential, and governments whose only role is to serve us all so that we can use our talents and work ethics to do the best we can for ourselves. None of this gives government officials permission to determine by their own personal lights what the future of the state’s economy and Oklahomans’ livelihoods will be.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of 1889 Institute.