Why Clinton's Morals Seem Important

by Harry Browne

January 25, 1998

Q. Why do people care about the private behavior of a president or any political candidate?

A. Because it seems to be the only area in which one politician differs from another.

If there were significant differences among politicians differences that affected our lives materially we would focus on those differences and their private behavior would be irrelevant.

If Bill Clinton had reduced government to a fraction of its present size, making it possible to repeal the income tax and replace it with nothing, we might be distressed that he's sexually obsessed, but we wouldn't dream of trading him for a business-as-usual opponent.

If he had freed us from the Ponzi scheme called Social Security, we probably would look the other way when his hand is caught in the cookie jar.

If he had put a stop to the insane War on Drugs, freeing American cities from the criminal gangs financed with black-market drug profits, we might not even mind that he seems to be a congenital liar.

But he hasn't done anything to get government out of our lives. Nor has the Republican Congress. And since neither party offers to improve our lives significantly, we really have no self-interest in favoring one over the other. So we choose up sides based on such things as character and morals even though Ronald Reagan, a man of apparent good character, did no more to get government out of our lives than Bill Clinton, an obvious rogue.

Do you think there's an important difference between the two parties? Consider one example: Clinton proposed to take a health-care system made sick by 30 years of government intervention and make it even sicker with a massive makeover. The Republicans fought it, defeated it, gained control of Congress, and proceeded to enact the Clinton plan piece by piece.

On issue after issue raising the minimum wage, censoring the Internet, bailing out Mexico, and on and on the Republicans and Democrats argue strenuously and then copy each other. Republican Congressmen accuse Clinton of stealing their ideas, even as they plagiarize all the pork-barrel policies of the Democratic Congress.

With no real difference between them, the two parties taunt each other like children, probe for weaknesses, and try to catch each other in contradictions looking to put some points on the scoreboard and win the next election.

Meanwhile government gets bigger, more expensive, more intrusive, more destructive, and more dangerous.

The twin parties have become so hopelessly corrupted by power and the perqs of governing that our only hope is a third party still too young, healthy, and principled to be infected by their dishonesty and political extortion.

So I'm pleased that the Libertarian Party is growing rapidly in size and resources and may even be a major force for much smaller government by the 2000 elections.

Until then we're reduced to watching the politicians trying to score points at each other's expense and wondering whether the latest Clinton scandal was caused by genuine misbehavior or by politics.

Tell me honestly, does it really matter which is the case?