Splurge was awakened by the sun streaming through the curtains, and the distinctive morning knock of one of his Downing Street staff. “What day is this?” cried Splurge.
“Why, the day of your Party Conference speech, Prime Minister!” came the reply from outside.
“Oh spirits!” exclaimed Splurge. “Thank you! Thank you! I haven’t missed it! I shall make them such a speech!”
His hands were busy with his garments; turning them inside out, putting them on upside down, such a state he was in. As he picked up his wallet to thrust it into his usual pocket, he chanced a look inside and saw the picture of Adam Smith on the back of the £20 note. “It’s all right! It’s all true, it all happened! Ha, ha ha,” he whooped.
He frisked into the study and fumbled excitedly for a pen and paper. “Oh, I am light as a feather, as happy as an angel, as merry as a schoolboy,” he exclaimed, laughing and crying in the same breath.
“What a speech it will be! I will tell them that public spending and regulation always has perverse side effects! I shall tell them that government just keeps on growing unless you restrain it! I will tell them how a free society is tolerant of others and does not try to dictate their how they should live; and how we should be wary of politicians telling us they are limiting our freedom of speech and action for our own good.”
“I will tell them about Public Choice! Yes, indeed! How democracy is not the answer to everything, and is best limited to things we cannot decide by any other means. How elections are not a measure of the public interest but a battle of competing interests – and how the majority has no right to exploit the minority with high taxation. The Rule of Law! Yes! I will tell them about how laws should apply to everyone, without favour, and not framed to give privileges to those in government and their cronies!”
“Oh, they will be so surprised!”
“And the IMF too,” he exclaimed all on a sudden, remembering his recent conversation. “I will tell them how the financial crash was caused by our expansionary policy, built on cheap credit and loose money! And how our inept regulators made it worse! That it wasn’t the bankers at all – that they were just caught up in the spiral like everyone else!”
“I know!” – at this point he danced a little jig of excitement – I will tell them that we will adopt market monetarism so that our currency remains sound and these things never happen again. And that we will pay off the national debt and adopt a zero deficit and balanced budget rule so that governments are never again tempted to spend beyond their means.” Splurge looked into the distance for a moment, thinking. “Oh, and I must write to the European regulators too! So much to do! So much to do!”
And gathering up his sheaf of scribbled notes, he dashed onto the street, dismissed his chauffeur-driven car, and took the bus to the conference centre where the Party were assembled. He had never dreamed that being surrounded by ordinary people, who were not part of the political class, could give him so much happiness. Nor that his mission to save and preserve human freedom could yield him so much pleasure.
Splurge was better than his word. He said it all, and did infinitely more. To freedom, which did NOT die, he became the as good a friend, as good a protector, as the good old Westminster Village knew. Some people laughed at his U-turn, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them. For he was wise enough to know, how healthy it is for a society to be able to laugh at its politicians, and how so few societies allow such jest.
He had no further intercourse with extravagant public spending schemes, nor bureaucracy, nor excessive taxation and regulation; but lived upon the Limited Government principle, ever afterwards. And it was always said of him, that he knew how to preserve liberty well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of all of us!
And so, as Adam Smith observed, “It is the highest impertinence, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people. They are themselves always, and without exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society.” Save all of us from that, every one!