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Some Questions for American Conservatives

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Consider two items in today’s news.  The first is the Journal‘s own report that “politics often complicates the task of wringing savings from the U.S. military budget.  Lawmakers, facing pressures from defense contractors and local communities, often oppose proposed cuts to military bases, aircraft and shipbuilding programs and weapons systems” (“Pentagon Drops Plan to Mothball USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier“).  In short, politics corrupts military operations.

The second item is Washington Post op-ed whose author, Henri Barkey, rightly criticizes Pres. Obama for nominating as U.S. ambassador to Norway a man who knows nothing of diplomacy or of Norway.  The wannabe ambassador’s only ‘qualification’ is that he bundled lots of political contributions to help Mr. Obama win reelection.  In short, politics corrupts diplomatic operations.

So I’ve some questions for my conservative friends: Why do instances such as these not cause you to be as leery of government bureaucracies called “the Pentagon” and “State Department” as you are of government bureaucracies called “Federal Trade Commission” and “Environmental Protection Agency”?  If ignorance and special-interest politics routinely drive Uncle Sam’s domestic economic interventions, why do you think that such ignorance and special-interest politics only rarely drive Uncle Sam’s foreign interventions?  Why do you trust venal and arrogant politicians – who so regularly screw up the domestic economy by unleashing, over here, Niagaras of taxpayer funds along with hordes of U.S. bureaucrats and tax collectors – to bring civility and prosperity to foreigners by unleashing, over there, Niagaras of taxpayer funds along with hordes of U.S. diplomats and soldiers?

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030