This week, millions of Americans disgusted with politics demanded change. They voted for candidates who promised to reduce spending and force government to live within its means.
“Don’t ask me how we’re going to create jobs,” said Rand Paul, a newly minted U.S. senator since Tuesday, before a Kentucky crowd last April. “It’s you who will create jobs. If we get out of your way.”
In Toronto, new mayor Rob Ford spent his career in city council denouncing his colleagues’ spending and privileges. “Partying with taxpayer money is over,” repeated the football coach during his campaign.
In England, David Cameron’s new government is putting the state on a diet. He plans to eliminate 490,000 public jobs by 2015. A majority of the population supports him.
The era of bailiffs
Historically, politicians have always played Santa Claus. But those days are over, according to Éric Duhaime, cofounder of the Quebec Liberty Network, a grassroots movement that promotes greater freedom of choice and individual responsibility.
“It’s fun to play Santa, giving gifts and receiving thanks from everyone. But the kind of politician we need now, in Quebec and elsewhere, is a bailiff. Someone who will break down doors, twist arms, and go get the cheques,” he said.
This kind of work is less glamorous. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies on bright, sunny days will be rare. It’s not surprising that fewer and fewer people want to go into politics, according to Duhaime. “Historically, politicians were used to hearing, ‘Thank you so much, kind sir, thank you for giving us roads and arenas. Thanks for putting it on my children’s credit cards.’ Today, the credit cards are maxed out.”
The task will be difficult and unpleasant, but the mission is noble: Serving the needs of the people instead of the whims of well-connected interest groups. Taxpayers have had it with seeing their money used to bail out millionaire bankers, launch wars or placate unions.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie is so popular that many see him running for the presidency one day. His message: Let’s stop making short-term decisions that dig us ever deeper. “This year, many government employees will get an 11 per cent raise. It’s going to cost New Jersey taxpayers $300 million, while thousands of these taxpayers just feel lucky to still have jobs. It’s insane.”
Santa Claus is dead. And that’s a good thing.
David Descôteaux is a freelance economic journalist and an associate researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.