Americans have long ago abandoned respect for the constitutional limitations placed on the federal government. Our elected representatives represent that disrespect. After all I'd ask Higgs: Isn't it unreasonable to expect a politician to do what he considers to be political suicide, namely conduct himself according to the letter and spirit of the Constitution?
While Americans, through ignorance or purpose, show contempt for our Constitution, I doubt whether they are indifferent between a growing or stagnating economy. Dr. Higgs tells us some of the economic history of the U.S. In 1893, there was a depression; we got out of it without a stimulus package. There was a major recession of 1920-21; though sharp, it quickly reversed itself into what has been call the "Roaring Twenties." In 1929, there was an economic downturn, most notably featured by the stock market collapse, after which came massive government intervention — you might call it the nation's first stimulus package.
President Hoover and Congress responded to what might have been a two- or three-year sharp downturn with many of the policies President Obama and Congress are urging today. They raised tariffs, propped up wage rates, bailed out farmers, banks and other businesses, and financed state relief efforts. When Roosevelt came to office, he became even more interventionist than Hoover and presided over protracted depression where the economy didn't fully recover until 1946...
A more fundamental question is: Should Washington be guided by the Constitution? In explaining the Constitution, James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist Paper 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce." Has the Constitution been amended to permit Congress to tax, spend and regulate as it pleases or have Americans said, "To hell with the Constitution"?
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