How large should government be? That’s the question Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia Business School, asks as he lays out the traditional Republican argument for why he thinks the country is in economic free fall. Predictably, as a Republican who served in George W. Bush’s administration, he avows that a big reason we’re in trouble is government’s growing entitlement programs. (“Still on the Cliff,” by Glenn Hubbard, Fortune, March 18, 2013, pg. 34) Also, predictably, he warns that we can’t solve our fiscal crisis but increasing taxes on the wealthy.
Of course any decision about the size of government is driven by values — an individual’s sense of fair play and the extent to which he or she believes government should redistribute wealth to achieve a basic safety net for all its citizens. Hubbard warns that if we rely too heavily on taxes to redistribute money, the rich may choose to leave the country just as some have done recently in France.
My response to Hubbard is that much of the country’s wealth has already left the country and is parked in off-shore bank accounts and foreign investments all meant to avoid taxes. Would having the affluent follow their money — give up their citizenship and live abroad — be a great loss to the nation?
How large should the government be? I don’t know. Certainly the country is in the midst of a debate on that question. I hope the argument won’t revolve around our fear that the wealthy will flee our borders if we raise taxes. Should we be concerned about people who put money before country? My answer is no. It’s time to revive the conservative slogan of the 1960s: It’s your country. Love it or Leave it.
(Courtesy of nowis.com)