A Government that does Nothing? Sign Me Up!

A Government that does Nothing? Sign Me Up!

The Coalition has been branded a “zombie government” for taking an early break this week, apparently on the grounds of having insufficient new bills to debate.

According to Shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle, it’s a sign that “this government hasn’t only run out of ideas, it’s run out of steam.”

And according to another Labour MP, Jon Ashworth, “It’s just the latest example of David Cameron’s zombie government that simply staggers on despite the fact that Ministers have run nothing left to say.”

If they’re right it would be the best news we’ve had from Westminister in ages. Getting more stuff done is – or ought to be – the obsession of Labour administrations but definitely not Conservative ones. This is because the entire political process is, essentially, a left-wing fallacy – based on the risible notion, which only a socialist or a green or a Lib Dem or a member of the Cameroon think tank Bright Blue could seriously entertain – that government is capable of improving things by becoming ever bigger and more intrusive.

Ronald Reagan saw through this idiocy straight away – “Don’t just do something. Stand there” he used to tell his officials – and the historical evidence tends to support him.

“Eye-catching initiatives” are the preserve of desperate hucksters like Tony Blair and Nick Clegg not of principled statesmen who understand what is best for their country and who are prepared to brave the brickbats of those who demand – as people always do – why the government isn’t doing more to solve this or that problem. (I’m not sure that Cameron necessarily fits into the latter category either: which is why I’m rather sceptical of what these Labour MPs are claiming…)

Here is a perfect example of what I mean from the great Thomas Sowell, whose work, I think should be required reading for everyone about to take political office.

For the first 150 years of this country’s existence, the federal government felt no great need to “do something” when the economy turned down. Over that long span of time, the economic downturns were neither as deep nor as long lasting as they have been since the federal government decided that it had to “do something” in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, which set a new precedent.

One of the last of the “do nothing” presidents was Warren G. Harding. In 1921, under President Harding, unemployment hit 11.7 percent — higher than it has been under President Obama. Harding did nothing to get the economy stimulated.

Far from spending more money to try to “jump start” the economy, Harding actually reduced government spending, as the tax revenues declined during the economic downturn.This was not a matter of absent-mindedly neglecting the economy. Harding deliberately rejected the urging of his own Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, to intervene.

The 11.7 percent unemployment rate in 1921 fell to 6.7 percent in 1922, and then to 2.4 percent in 1923. It is hard to think of any government intervention in the economy that produced such a sharp and swift reduction in unemployment as was produced by just staying out of the way and letting the economy rebound on its own.

Contrast this with, say, the behaviour of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his £1 billion “back-of-a-cigarette-pack” scheme to give free school meals to infants – for no better reason, apparently, than to demonstrate his dwindling support base that he is still capable of rubbing his Conservative colleagues’ noses in it.

A billion pounds! Think just how many government and civil service redundancy pay offs you could afford with a budget like that.