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Sweet dreams of losers and winners

Kenneth D. Gough • Jul 14, 2018 at 8:30 AM

I had a good dream last night. It was a fantasy, of course, but we all have our fantasies, and one of mine is that someday we’ll hear a candidate give a campaign speech along these lines:

My friends and fellow citizens, I am a fiscal conservative. I’d like to tell you what that means to me.

First and foremost, it means that government has no right to spend one penny of your money more than absolutely necessary. But fiscal conservatism is much more than that.

We believe that government should not do anything that people can do for themselves. That leaves plenty for government to do, but it also means that we should be doing less than we are. That will require some hard, unpopular choices.

We believe that taxes are collected for one purpose, and one purpose only – to pay for government-provided services. Using taxes for “social engineering,” to “incentivize” you to behave in ways that those in power want you to behave, is inherently wrong and immoral.

Fiscal conservatives know that good government is not cheap — but they also know that it is not nearly as expensive as bad government. Government should not try to do everything, but what it does, it must do well.

We know that we can’t be penny wise and pound foolish. We know that spending too little is just as bad as spending too much.

We honor and learn from the past — but we don’t live in the past. We live in the present, we plan for the future, and we work to make that future a reality.

We know that we must not put off until tomorrow what must be done today — and what must be done today, we must pay for today. The consequence is that we can’t avoid setting priorities and making hard choices — and, sometimes, those choices will be a bitter pill to swallow.

We have a responsibility to our descendants to leave our city/county/state/ nation better than we found it — and a big part of that responsibility is making sure that they can afford what we have left them. It is immoral to expect them to pay the bills that we ran up. That means we have to balance our budget.

We know that things change, and doing things the same old way we’ve always done them is a guarantee that we’ll get the same old results. That’s not good enough — as a matter of fact, it’s a recipe for decline and failure. We can’t be afraid to change when it’s necessary, even when — especially when — change is uncomfortable. At the same time, we acknowledge change will produce losers as well as winners, and we must be ready to comfort and assist them as best we can. It’s what civilized people do.

We know that good intentions don’t count. Results count. Good people can and do fail. When they fail, no hard feelings, but we have to let them go.

We know that free people, free markets and free trade are demonstrably the best way to advance our material welfare, but we’re not blind to the downside of these things, either. Ironically, the prosperity produced by freedom is the best antidote; it solves many problems on its own, and provides the wherewithal to deal with the problems it can’t solve. Therefore, you can count on me to be a champion of freedom.

I know what it’s like to face hard times, and how to survive them. I know what it’s like to enjoy success, but I also know that you can’t let it go to your head, because even the greatest success is temporary. I know what it’s like to face challenges, and I know that with patience, perseverance, ingenuity, attention to detail and hard work, we can master the challenges and turn them to our advantage.

If you see fit to elect me to the city council/county commission/state legislature/governorship/congress/presidency, I can guarantee that you will not like every vote I cast/decision I make. But I can also guarantee you that my votes/decisions will be based on these fiscally-conservative principles, and that every “Yes” or “No” will be based on my carefully-considered conviction that it is in the best interest of the entire community/state/nation and its people.

Well, I said it was a fantasy. But a man can dream, can’t he?

Kenneth D. Gough of Elizabethton is a semi-retired businessman.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed by all Community Voices columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Johnson City Press.

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