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Andrew Henderson

Founder of Nomad Capitalist and the world’s most sought-after expert on global citizenship.

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Finance

The government that cried wolf on sovereign debt

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Aristotle was to have said that people lie so “that when they speak truth they are not believed”.

American politicians and the White House are going around proclaiming that soon, planes will fall from the sky, Dark Ages diseases will return to plague us again, and roads will crumble as the scourge of “sequestration” comes to pass. To their credit, they originally said it would happen instantly.

As it turns out, a lot of Americans just don’t care. Just over half of respondents to a recent poll were positive, neutral or had no opinion on the sequester. Add in the group that were disappointed but not awaiting the sky to fall and it’s even higher.

It’s not their first rodeo with doom-and-gloom predictions from their government.

From the need for rushed stimulus spending that stimulated nothing, to a health care overhaul that had to be passed to know what was in it, to one liberty-killing pass-it-now-or-you’re-one-of-them acts after another in the name of “fighting terror”, Americans have seen all the plays in Uncle Sam’s playbook.

The US economy is still bleak, health care isn’t magically fixed, and Homeland Security is only stopping grandmas, not guerillas.

Yet the government is resolute in its goal to make as many Americans as possible believe that the bigger and more far-reaching the government is, the better, and that any tiny cut will wreak havoc on everyone.

It’s funny how government spending has gone up 75% in the last ten years, yet I don’t recall seeing the charred rubble of fallen airliners dotting the landscape or malaria patients on every stoop back in the frontier days of 2003.

Spending will increase by nearly another 75% in the next decade. Keyword: nearly; that’s all the horror a government official needs to hear to decry “massive cuts”.

As budgets rise, the one constant will undoubtedly be the government hype and propaganda that without it, you’re doomed.

As an lifelong entrepreneur, I understand the need to provide quality service to my customers and to make their relationship with me as easy as possible to keep their business. When businesses cut expenses, they do so shrewdly to minimize impact on customers.

The government does none of that. Their goal is the opposite: to make your life as difficult as possible by throwing a bratty temper tantrum over how their gravy train will have to slow down a little.

Their goal is to make you share in their misery so you’ll yell “Uncle!”

You can argue all you want that government is about more than profits. That doesn’t mean they have to purposefully run with great inefficiency to punish you for the mistakes of their own making.

Here in the Land of the Free, I was recently at a Nordstrom store and asked the manager what happened to the piano players. He explained that was the first of several small things the chain cut when business slowed down.

When I asked him if anyone else had commented, he said it was never brought up. The store cut expenses but also introduced new measures to improve employee morale and deliver an equally good experience for customers.

With government, your experience is unimportant since you pay at the end of a gun and really aren’t the end consumer of the shuffled money anyway. Who cares what you think?

As the poorly accounted for money keeps getting shuffled more and more in the wrong direction, however, government knows it has to create an allure to keep you paying, almost like a jack-in-the-box in the corner of your eye popping up and shouting “look over here!”

If you keep getting the little things you pay government for, like reasonably speedy lines at the airport, you won’t be as likely to complain and will allow the endless spending to go on unchecked. But if life were to become more difficult – or you thought it might – you’d take notice.

I don’t imagine these cuts will make anyone’s life miserable right away. But just wait until the government gets irritated with its lessened spending. All the services you’re used to will slow to a crawl.

While the budget for the TSA or the passport office or your local post office is far from the biggest thing on the agenda, those are the budgets that will be cut as a means of indoctrination that the government is in control of your life and if you don’t meet their monster’s cash demands, you will be punished.

This is a textbook case of why societies fail. The beast eventually gets too big for its own making and those who want to stop it will eventually capitulate as they become demonized by an ever-greedy and uninformed population. I can only say to watch out.

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