Presidential Elections' Economic Importance

By Kane, Tim D. | USA TODAY, November 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Presidential Elections' Economic Importance


Kane, Tim D., USA TODAY


WOULD IT HAVE MATTERED if George Washington had lost to John Adams in our nation's first presidential contest or, if eight years later, Adams had lost to Thomas Jefferson? Does it matter who the winner is this time? As is so often the case in economics, the answer is "it depends."

Our first three presidents helped found the nation and formalize its principles. Whichever of them held the highest office was of little consequence for three reasons. First, each believed limiting government's power was a prerequisite to securing mankind's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Second, they were not far removed from the philosophers who provided inspiration on natural rights, personal liberty, private property, and the origins of tyranny. Third, the Federal government's income was small, limiting its ability to spend and therefore to intrude into private affairs.

With the ink still fresh on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, it would never have crossed the Framers' minds to suggest that the presidency conferred upon them powers other than to "faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and ... [to] preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Sections 2 and 3 of Article II identify the president's responsibilities: acting as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, conducting foreign affairs, appointing persons to high government offices and taking "care that the laws of the United States be faithfully executed." How is this job description connected to the economy?

In 1776, economist Adam Smith asserted that the sovereign had but three duties in a free market system--to provide national defense: maintain an exact system of justice to impartially mediate disputes, protect private property, and prevent the use of force or fraud; and provide certain public services. These three duties sound remarkably like the president's constitutional duties, and here we find the link between good government and the market. These three functions create an ideal environment for free enterprise where buyers and sellers have an incentive to create new wealth for themselves and for society. The resulting economic activities represent the machinery of liberty in operation.

Why did the Framers constrain government's power to "do good?" They did so because they recognized that if government "helped" one citizen by taking the property of another, it would weaken work incentives, undermine mutual trust (the market's lubricating oil), and the coercion required to affect the redistribution would engender class envy and reduce citizens to the status of subjects. When these truths were understood, it mattered little which man was chosen.

Four historical developments have created a Federal government and a presidency that Washington, Adams, and Jefferson would not recognize. First, public servants no longer credit the source of our "inalienable rights," nor do they acknowledge the Creator's role in establishing this most unique of all republics. Reverence and fear no longer constrain their behavior. Washington suffered no such ambivalence: "it is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the bible," he stated.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Presidential Elections' Economic Importance
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.