Originally posted at Sprott Money on December 4, 2015.
It's an unfortunate truth that, when people are worried about the future, they often put their faith in politicians to somehow make everything better.
Politicians, of course, are famous for promising panaceas for whatever troubles voters and inventing new troubles for voters to worry about, presenting themselves as the only ones who can solve these woes.
It's not surprising then, that over time, any nation may slowly deteriorate into a population of nebbishes who not only let their government do all the thinking but also hand over all responsibility for the future.
In the last year, the world has seen many elections in which the top spot (president, prime minister, premier, etc.) was contested. In Brazil, Socialist President Dilma Rousseff was returned but almost immediately ran into trouble over a failing economy, scandals and corruption charges. In less than a year, her popularity sank to the lowest level for any Brazilian president on record.
In the UK, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron was returned, which immediately triggered riots in London by the anti-austerity crowd. He will soon be facing increasingly angry voters of all stripes who are boiling over from the dramatically worsening immigration question. In addition, he'll soon be facing a referendum on the UK's membership in the EU - an event he's been postponing for quite some time.
In Canada, voters have chosen to oust the Conservatives and return to the golden promises of the Trudeaus. With that, the Canadian dollar dropped immediately. Mr. Trudeau is planning a vast programme of public spending in the face of a declining economy, but he hasn't offered any explanation as to how this can be paid for.
Argentina has just had its election. The departing Peronist, Cristina Kirchner Fernández, has passed the baton (and a failing economy, rapidly declining peso and civil unrest) to the more conservative Mauricio Macri.
Do we see a pattern here? No, except in the sense that countries habitually put in a conservative leader for a while, tire of them and replace them with a liberal, then tire of the more liberal leader and replace them with someone conservative.
None of these leaders will be the solution to the problems of their nation. In fact, they are the problem. Each of them (and many others around the world) offered dramatic, unrealistic campaign promises for ever-increasing largesse from the government. Each will increase national debt to fulfill their promises in order to maintain a government that's already drowning in debt. The end game is understood: at some point, the economy hits the wall. Citizens on opposing sides of the problems are boiling over, as it's become clear that there's no money in the till to pay for such economically suicidal policies. Yet, each year, the spending worsens and so do the economic conditions for the average citizen.
And this is true whether we see Labour, Tory, Republican, Democrat, Democratica Progresista or Federalista del Centro in power. At some point, it would be reasonable to expect the average voter to realise that it's not only the opposition candidate that's a danger; it's also their own party's candidate and, in fact, the entire political system.
Interestingly, in many countries, grumblings of, "They're all corrupt," can be heard, yet immediately after making such statements, the average voter returns to supporting their party's candidate, as that candidate is considered "the lesser of two evils."
Here we see a guiding principle of party politics. That is, do all you can to portray the opposing party as evil. Use the media to parrot that concept on a daily basis. In so doing, it becomes unimportant who you run for office. Your party supporters do not vote for your candidate, they vote against the opposing party's candidate. That makes it possible to run a rutabaga for office and still win, if you can succeed in demonizing the turnip the other party is running.
In the US, political candidacy is practically a national sport. The presidential competition begins as soon as the previous election has ended. (Candidate Hillary Clinton began the "I might be running" charade before the sitting president had been sworn in, in 2012, for his second term.)
In addition to the candidates pouring so much time into campaigning that those who already hold public office abandon their responsibilities in order to focus on the campaign, hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into each campaign. In the current US election, we have Mrs. Clinton, a candidate with a dark past; many American voters consider her to be dishonest, untrustworthy, and a liar - an astonishing revelation. However, the even more astonishing truth is that many of those who see her in that light plan to vote for her anyway, in order to stop a Republican - any Republican - from attaining office.
And the Republican side is presently led by Donald Trump, a man famous for his quick temper, boastful comments, bullying presence and egotistical will. This is in addition to his long record of bankrupting his business projects.
Yet his supporters are equally rabid in their belief that he is needed to counter the dreaded Mrs. Clinton.
It's hard to imagine that two candidates could be less qualified for public office. We might be forgiven if we conclude that there is no lesser of two evils in equations like this one. There is only disaster in a red outfit and disaster in a blue one.
In 1796, the young US chose between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson for president. Most Americans admired them both, and it was a very close election. Both had been founding fathers, and both contributed heavily to the cause of freedom that was so valued in the early days of the US.
But, in those days, average Americans recognized that their freedom depended upon a small government. As Mr. Jefferson rightly stated, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything that you have."
Indeed, the US had come into being as a result of revolution against the government of King George of England, who had the temerity to raise the total tax level to about 2.5%.
But countries always seem to decline over time. No matter how well-intended the original concept and no matter how productive the people, countries decline, and for the same reasons. Governments (both liberal and conservative) constantly work to grow their own power and to extract as much wealth from their people as they can manage.
As stated at the beginning of this article, "It's an unfortunate truth that, when people are worried about the future, they often put their faith in politicians to somehow make everything better." By doing so, they make their own destruction possible.
But what's one person to do? "You can't fight City Hall," as they say. However, in most countries, the US included, it's still legal to vote with your feet - to move to a different jurisdiction that has not gone so far into decline and where the taxation is low and the level of liberty is high. In any era, there are always jurisdictions that are freer than others, and the present era is no exception. In seeking a saviour, we should not put our faith in any politician or group of politicians.
If we have a saviour, it is the person in the mirror. If we are to be saved, we alone must do the research, make the plans, vote with our feet and establish our own liberty.