Harry Browne on Budget & Economy

2000 Libertarian Nominee for President


Entire federal budget should be $100B, not $1.8T

A government that isn’t trying to dominate the world, one that focuses on national defense rather than offense, should be able to fulfill its constitutional duties to defend the country and provide a federal judiciary for around $100 billion a year. While that may seem small next to today’s $1.8 trillion budget, it’s actually no less than what our government thrived on for most of America’s history.

The biggest obstacle to such a budget comes from the promises the politicians have made. They have run up outright debts of $5.6 trillion, which costs over $200 billion a year in interest expense. In addition, the government has made promises to veterans and government employees. And the federal government has underwritten insurance against low farm outputs, natural disasters, bank failures, and much else.

Source: The Great Libertarian Offer, p.227-228 , Sep 9, 2000

Return to the gold standard; end Federal Reserve

Q: What’s your opinion of the Federal Reserve system?

A: There is no constitutional authority for a national bank. I’d push Congress to repeal the Federal Reserve Act and return to a pure gold standard, where you would no longer worry about politicians setting interest rates and such.

Q: How would that work in today’s economy?

A: Most people would never notice the difference from today’s money. But politicians would no longer be trying to determine the right amount of money in circulation and the right interest rates-tasks at which they’re no more competent than they are to stamp out drugs or poverty.

Q: But wouldn’t that cause a huge economic contraction? Would we return to the large-scale Boom/Busts of the 1890’s?

A: The “booms/busts” of the 1890s were tiny compared to [those in] the 1930s and 1970s, presided over by the Federal Reserve System. The question is: Who is most competent to run your life and make your financial and personal decisions-you or the politicians? I choose you.

Source: EVote.com on-line chat , Jun 14, 2000

Budget surplus is over-taxation, so return it all

Q: What should be done with the existing budget surplus? A: Surplus? What surplus? The federal budget process allows politicians to utilize the funds from the so-called “Trust” of Social Security and to move projects “off-budget” so that they can achieve their political goal. The surplus doesn’t exist.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it did exist. Than those funds represent the amount that the taxpayers are getting overtaxed. In fact, all the unconstitutional spending that occurs is the amount the taxpayers are overtaxed.
That’s why I am proposing my Great Libertarian Offer, “Would you be willing to give up your favorite federal government program if it meant never having to pay income tax again?” Because in reality, that’s the cost of all these unconstitutional forays into our daily lives.
Source: Email correspondence from the candidate with OnTheIssues.org , Jan 27, 2000

Decrease defense & police $; eliminate everything else

Browne supports enforcing the spending limits agreed to in 1997 by the President and Congress to balance the budget.
Source: 2000 National Political Awareness Test , Jan 13, 2000

Neither Dems nor Reps “reign in spending”

The last four budgets passed by a Democratic Congress enlarged the federal government by 14.4%. The four budgets the Republican Congress passed have enlarged the federal government by 13.9%. This could hardly be called “reigning in spending.” In fact, the first three Republican budgets increased spending faster than the Democratic budgets.
Source: WorldNetDaily “Truth about Parties” 3/23/99 , Mar 23, 1999

Amendment: Limit spending to prior year’s revenue

Browne does not support the current outlines for amending the US Constitution to require a balanced federal budget. “The Republican and Democratic balanced budget proposals are misleading, because they don’t guarantee a balanced budget -- only ‘good intentions.’ I propose an amendment that would limit all federal spending (on-budget and off-budget) to the amount of revenues received in the prior fiscal year.”
Source: 1996 National Political Awareness Test , May 1, 1996

Against block grants; repeal income tax instead.

Browne does not support the use of block grants given to states in any areas. “I propose we repeal the federal income tax the first year, leaving that money in the hands of the people who earned it -- to be spent or saved in their own communities.”
Source: 1996 National Political Awareness Test , May 1, 1996

Priorities: cut budget; repeal income tax; pay off debt

    Main priorities:
  1. Immediately reduce the federal budget by 50%.
  2. Immediately repeal the federal income tax.
  3. Balance the federal budget immediately.
  4. Sell federal assets and use the proceeds to pay off the federal debt.
  5. Privatize Social Security.
  6. Bring all American troops home.
Source: 1996 National Political Awareness Test , May 1, 1996

Great Depression was caused by federal monetary policies

In the late 1920s, the Federal Reserve System put new money into circulation in the US as part of a misguided scheme to bail the British government out of its fiscal problems. When the monetary increase threatened to bring on price inflation, the Federal Reserve stomped on the brakes and pulled money out of circulation--bringing on the crash of 1929 and starting a recession.
The Federal Reserve persisted in its policy, allowing the nation’s money supply to shrink by 30% between 1929 and 1933. Meanwhile, President Hoover increased government spending, raised income taxes, and pressured large companies to keep prices and wages high, producing a glut of unsold products and mass unemployment.
Previous recessions lasted only a year or so, because the government always stood aside and let the economy recover its balance. But this time, government actively intruded--and transformed the recession into a prolonged depression.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by Harry Browne, p. 42-3 , Jul 2, 1995

Politicians don’t want to reduce government

We have to understand that politicians don’t want to reduce government.And it isn’t because they think the spending cuts would hurt too many people. It’s because they know it would hurt them.
Unlike families and corporations, politicians don’t feel the burden of debt-only the elation of spending. So they have no incentive to restrain themselves. They can spend your money without limit to reward their friends.
No matter what they say, neither the Democrats nor Republicans want to give up the power that allows them to bestow favors and exemptions on friends.
Our salvation won’t come from politicians. We need people who will go to Washington not to reform government programs or to reduce them, but to get rid of them. We need leaders who don’t want to run the country, but who want to restore our right to run our own lives. We need legislators who don’t want to be politicians, but simply want to enjoy for themselves the freedom America once knew.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by Harry Browne, p.172 , Jul 2, 1995

Reduce budget from $1.5 trillion to $385 billion

If we shrink our government from its current yearly budget of $1.5 trillion down to just its constitutional functions, we could get by with a budget of only $100 billion a year plus the interest that has to be paid on the national debt (about $285 billion in 1995).
Does $100 billion seem to little? Consider this: In 1950, the total budget of the federal government, excluding interest, was only $241 billion (inflation-adjusted). In 1950 there were no Departments of Education, Energy, Housing, or Health & Human Services, no EPA, no War on Drugs, no National Endowment for the Arts, and no Equal Opportunity Commission. There were very few of the thousands of federal programs that today regulate our lives and monitor our every activity-and cost so much.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by Harry Browne, p.173 , Jul 2, 1995

Get rid of $5 trillion debt by selling federal assets

We have to get rid of the federal debt-the $5 trillion worth of credit card bills the politicians have charged to us. A good deal of the debt has been used to buy or build things. They may not seem valuable because of the way they’re used now. But they might become much more valuable if sold to people who knew how to use them productively.
For example, the federal government owns 29% of all the land in the US, a total of 1 million square miles. As of 1991 it owned 441,000 buildings.
If we shrink the government to what the Constitution permits, it won’t need most of those assets. In fact, over 90% of them could be sold-returned to the American people to be used productively.
    If the federal government’s unneeded assets can be sold for $12 trillion, we can achieve the following:
  1. [Pay all recipients] of Social Security a private annuity
  2. Balance the budget
  3. Pay off the entire federal debt
  4. Repeal all federal income taxes
  5. Drop taxes at all levels from 49% to 28%.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by H. Browne, p.174-8 , Jul 2, 1995

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