For its 125th anniversary issue, the WSJ asked "If you could propose one change in American policy, society or culture to revive prosperity and self-confidence, what would it be and why?" Oh, and you have 250 words. I asked my son what to do. He answered quickly, "wish for more wishes." That's pretty much what I did.
My answer, along with some great other essays here at the WSJ. (WSJ asks us to hold off reposting for 30 days, which is why it's here now.)
Limit Government and Restore the Rule of Law
America doesn't need big new economic ideas to get going again. We need to address the hundreds of little common-sense economic problems that everyone agrees need to be fixed. Achieving that goal requires the revival of an old political idea: limited government and the rule of law.
Our tax code is a mess. The budget is a mess. Immigration is a mess. Energy policy is a mess. Much law is a mess. The schools are awful. Boondoggles abound. We still pay farmers not to grow crops. Social programs make work unproductive for many. ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank are monstrous messes. These are self-inflicted wounds, not external problems.
Why are we so stuck? To blame "gridlock," "partisanship" or "obstructionism" for political immobility is as pointless as blaming "greed" for economic problems.
Washington is stuck because that serves its interests. Long laws and vague regulations amount to arbitrary power. The administration uses this power to buy off allies and to silence opponents. Big businesses, public-employee unions and the well-connected get subsidies and protection, in return for political support. And silence: No insurance company will speak out against ObamaCare or the Department of Health and Human Services. No bank will speak out against Dodd-Frank or the Securities and Exchange Commission. Agencies from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Internal Revenue Service wait in the wings to punish the unwary.
This is crony capitalism, far worse than bureaucratic socialism in many ways, and far more effective for generating money and political power. But it suffocates innovation and competition, the wellsprings of growth.
Not just our robust economy, but 250 years of hard-won liberty are at stake. Yes, courts, media and a few brave politicians can fight it. But in the end, only an outraged electorate will bring change—and growth.