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Conservatives Are Winning!

Written By: Gary North  |  Posted: Thursday, May 24th, 2012


Think about this.

I got into the conservative movement in 1956. That was the year that Dwight Eisenhower was reelected President. I think most people like to think of those days as the good old days. Certainly, the popular television show Happy Days was premised on nostalgia for that era. But the reality is this: in terms of taxes collected by the federal government, the good old days were no better than today. With the top tax income rate at 91%, it was a lot worse. It was confiscatory.

What we forget is the enormous increase of productivity that the world has lived through since 1947. The output of American workers has risen steadily because of innovation, capital formation, and the greater wealth of our trading partners. As the rest of the world has gotten rich in the postwar era, everyone has prospered. When our neighbors get richer, we get richer. This includes our neighbors who live 10,000 miles away. This tremendous increase of productivity has enabled us to pay our taxes to the federal government and still enjoy an enormously increased standard of living.

When we think of the automobiles that Americans drove in 1946, or when I think of the 1952 automobile that I drove in 1958, there is no comparison. The cars today are safer, get far better mileage, are more stylish, handle better, and last longer. While a man my age looks back nostalgically at a 1955 Chevy hardtop convertible, he would not want to have to drive one on a regular basis.

The dream cars of 1955 had more to do with fantasies about the dream girls of 1955 than they did with transportation.

The federal government is intrusive in ways that we would not have imagined in 1955. The extent of bureaucratic tyranny in specific cases is considerable today. But when we consider how often we have been personally abused by some federal bureaucrat, most of us cannot say that we have suffered to any worse degree than citizens who were out of step in 1955. There was political correctness in 1955, too.

We no longer face the Soviet Union. We no longer face the threat of nuclear war. We deal with a Pentagon that is bloated, but it's far better to have a bloated Pentagon than a world war. American troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, but those troops were volunteers. There is no military draft today. There was in 1955.

The federal government has expanded beyond what it was in 1955, but it has done so over the last decade by means of borrowed money. That ability is going to be curtailed at some point. When that curtailment takes place, the federal government is going to be put on a diet. There will be a contraction of government control over the economy.

Americans will not tolerate total taxation to exceed about 20% of GDP. The politicians can promise all kinds of benefits, but the reality is this: if the government cannot borrow the money, it is not going to be able to fund the projects. American taxpayers will not put up with extensive taxation. Our nation is a low-tax country. Compared to Europe, it is a very low-tax country. Any politician who thinks he can get the voters to approve a major tax increase is going to find himself an unemployed former politician soon enough. Even if he is in a safe political district, his fellow Congressmen are not.


This is one of the reasons why I get tired of hearing from old-time conservatives that the country is going to hell in a handbasket. We have lost freedoms, but we have also gained freedoms. If we think of freedom in terms of the availability of choices that we can afford, we are the beneficiaries of an enormous increase of freedom over the last half-century. The government has grown, and it has grown arrogant, but the ability of any given bureaucracy to affect the American economy, other than the Federal Reserve System, is minimal.

The fact that there are individual examples of petty tyrannical behavior, meaning arrogant bureaucratic behavior, is not proof of systematic policy to take us down the road to serfdom. 

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