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An ongoing discussion about conservatism in New Jersey.
The Election's Misdirected Focus
Peter C. Hansen  (October 29, 2009, 2:25 pm)

Next Tuesday remains a toss-up, although the auguries seem to be pointing, however faintly, to a Christie victory. Relative to Corzine, Christie would be a major improvement in the eyes of any conservative who doesn't subscribe to Lenin's "worse-is-better" philosophy while waiting for a purist revolution. I won't get into the Christie-versus-Daggett question since Murray is a Daggett man, Alan is for Christie, and both likely feel much more strongly about this question than I do.

My discontent is not with any candidate, but arises instead from the fact that NJ voters are being encouraged to focus on a symptom rather than the disease. Property taxes are an outrage in NJ, no doubt. But simply cutting them will do nothing to reduce the state's deficits. Nor will a tax cut cure any of the state's chronic woes or reduce the gargantuan public sector. Indeed, it would just add to the public's interest payments and makes things even worse later when higher taxes return.

What has to be attacked along with high taxes is the uncontrolled spending that makes such high taxes necessary. This spending goes mostly to paying for ever more government workers. (Click here for details.) These outsized expenditures arise directly from the stranglehold of the public-sector unions on NJ elections. I don't believe that NJ is a particularly left-wing state in terms of social liberalism. It is instead a blue state mostly because of unionism, and most especially public-sector unionism.

State government workers in NJ can – as a group – advocate, lobby and campaign for legislators that favor adding more public-sector workers. This arrangement provides a ready-made political machine to any candidate willing to hand over public dollars to further their personal ambition. It also shuts out other candidates by raising the barriers to entry. Unless you can compete with a publicly funded political behemoth, which is to say the very State itself, don't even bother to try.

Government that campaigns for government inexorably takes policy-making out of the voters' hands and reposes it in the bureaucracy. This is obviously anti-democratic and must be put to an end if NJ's fiscal woes are to be cured. To be clear, this is not a call for ending civil-service protections, but simply for keeping public-sector unions out of the political sphere. The bureaucracy is not a private interest group, and should not be allowed to masquerade as one.

Unfortunately, the way Christie has campaigned will not give him a clear mandate to take on this Leviathan if he is elected. He may be able to take it on anyway, on the ground that any elected Republican automatically has a mandate to shrink the bureaucracy. Whether this would work remains to be see, and is at this point purely hypothetical. Here's nevertheless to hoping that he has a chance to take up this fight, and the guts as well.