“We have the opportunity to transform our culture of government through a top-to-bottom assessment of efficiency, effectiveness and more than anything else, a culture of customer service.”
These were the most important words of Governor Pat McCrory’s inaugural address. If he keeps his campaign promises, they will define his success as a leader. If he fails to deliver on them, these words will come back to haunt him.
It is noteworthy that as Pat McCrory assumed office and promised to fundamentally reform the way that government operates, a hero of conservative and libertarian economic theory passed on to his great reward. James Buchanan, a Nobel Prize winner for economics, recently died at age 93. Buchanan became famous in the mid-1980s as a challenger to liberal economist John Maynard Keynes.
It was Keynes who called for government intervention to prop up the economy by running up budget deficits in order to provide ‘stimulus.’ Buchanan countered that Keynes was mostly misguided. When Pat McCrory said, “[W]e have too often relied on short-term solutions to complex long-term problems,” he could have been reading from one of Buchanan’s many writings.
Professor Buchanan candidly stated that public officials often act in their own self-interest, instead of the public’s. He recognized that government bureaucracies tend to grow like a cancer and politicians fuel this disease with more and more spending, leaving the bills to future generations. Governor McCrory precisely described this problem in criticizing state agencies for “often ignoring the needs of the very people we serve and creating inefficiencies with your tax dollars.”
Unlike some past governors of North Carolina who advocated one spending plan after another, McCrory appears to recognize that more government will not solve our problems. In fact, oppressive government is the major source of the problems that beset us as a state and nation.
Unfortunately, when asked what is the answer to poverty, many people say, ‘more government programs.’ Likewise, the typical answer for the problems of our dismal public education system where one in four children drop out of school before the 12th grade is more spending, even though we already spend on average $8,500 per child each year. And, the solution to crime — more laws and more prisons. The list goes on and on, always calling for more money and bigger government. Such talk is music to the ears of liberal politicians.
Think about our Founding Fathers who witnessed government in its rawest form — an English tyrant demanding taxes without representation. They staked their very lives and fortunes against the British Crown and defeated the strongest military force on the planet at the time. They gave us a Constitution with a Bill of Rights to chain government as best they could. As George Washington wisely observed, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is a force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
At this critical time in our state’s history with high unemployment and a struggling economy, it’s refreshing to have a common-sense governor like Pat McCrory who speaks honestly and frankly to our citizens.
America was not established as a land where we counted on the government to solve our problems. Rather, it was God’s grace and self-reliance that made this country and our state a great place, but the luster has worn off. If Pat McCrory follows through on his rhetoric, and we stand with him, we can expect greatness again. Otherwise, all we are hearing is political hot air.
Thom Goolsby is a state senator, practicing attorney and law professor. He is a chairman of the Senate Judiciary 1 and Justice and Public Safety Committees.