Dear HTA readers,
We strive to bring you the best in intellectual and advocacy materials as you fight to halt the assault on free enterprise. Today, we publish an email interview exchange with Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Iaim Murray regarding his fantastic new book. We hop you enjoy! — Free Enterprise Alliance team
Halt The Assault: Hi Iain, tell our readers briefly about yourself and what you do at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Iain Murray: I’m originally from the UK, where I worked for the British government during a period when we were trying to slim down bureaucracy and make government good value for money for the taxpayer. That ended when I privatized myself out of a job and was able to come over here to get married to my long-distance girlfriend (we’d met at college). After specializing in energy and environment issues for a while, these days I head the Center for Economic Freedom at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. We look at how the government burdens the economy with regulations in areas like labor, finance, trade, transportation and the “nanny state.” We’re a little different from your average think tank – we like to have fun while we argue for limited government.
IM: The book is about the system that diverts over a third of our economy – close to half if you include the costs of regulation – away from private enterprise and into public administration. American government is out of control. It ignores the constitution and imposes massive burdens on the productive sector of the economy. If we don’t do something about it, it will consume more and more of our national wealth until it literally breaks the bank. Something like 1 in 4 Americans now works directly or indirectly for national, state or local government, and all the evidence suggests they make a better average living than their counterparts in the private sector – better wages, better benefits, better hours. But the private sector is the wealth creating part of the economy. The public sector has to reform – at the moment it’s just Stealing Us Blind.
HTA: What motivated you to write the book now? You touch on “evergreen” problems with Big Government types abusing taxpayers, but do you see things as better or worse now than in the distant or recent past?
IM: Things are much worse now, so much so that we’re approaching crisis point. For generations America has been able to cope with government taking around 18 percent of our economy, but we’re now reaching a stage where that isn’t going to be enough to cover the federal entitlement programs. To maintain anything discretionary, like the Navy for instance, we’ll have to raise taxes significantly. And there’s a similar problem in the states, where over-generous public employee pensions have left a $4 trillion unfunded liability. I don’t want my children paying half their wages so their teachers can retire at 50 on 90 percent salary.
HTA: How has the book been received so far? Any surprises?
IM: It’s interested me how many people have said that they don’t need a book to tell us that Government is stealing us blind! Yet the fact is that most people who know that don’t know quite the scale of the problem. I have an illustration in the book that shows that when we talk about a trillion dollar problem, it’s really something quite different from a billion dollar problem: “One million seconds is about 11.5 days, 1 billion seconds is about 32 years while a trillion seconds is equal to 32,000 years.” That’s concentrated a lot of people’s minds and I hope that people will realize that although they know government is a problem, many won’t know quite how much of a problem it is until they read the book.
HTA: What’s your level of confidence that Americans (and Britons) are knowledgeable and will take action to fight back against those stealing them blind?
IM: I think Americans have woken up from a national coma that afflicted them from around 2004 to 2010, which was the period when the problem went into overdrive. They want to see firm action and are prepared to punish those who promise action and don’t deliver. As for Britain, at least the government there is trying to reduce spending, but the Europeanization of the country may be too far advanced to let them do it. I have my fingers crossed for the old country, but unless America can solve its government issues, the world as a whole is in trouble.