President Donald Trump’s first budget proposes some big changes. A much higher commitment to national defense is at the top of the list and, in order to fund that, less foreign aid, government regulation, and federal subsidies for research and the arts.
What Trump is doing is returning to the age-old question of what the federal government should do (and not do). Over the centuries, nearly everyone has believed that providing a national defense is the essential role of the federal government. But, as the economist Milton Friedman pointed out, when the federal government does more and more, it gets expensive and inefficient and—over time—it limits our freedom.
What government has been doing for a long time is adding more programs at a higher cost and simply sending the bill to future generations through our growing national debt. What the Trump budget finally asks is, what must the federal government do … and then what can we cut to pay for that?