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Friday, December 19, 2008

My Favorite Reagan Quote in Reverse

In case you don't know my favorite quote it is of course

the nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help'

Now, I was ready for a deep defense of this philosophy when I saw the headline entitled Bigger Government=More Prosperity in the New Yorker. However, the backing for the philosophy backing more government comes down to this paragraph.

To an outside observer, though, there’s something interesting about that graph: the decades after government got so big just happen to be the decades of greatest shared prosperity in the history of the U.S. A large and growing middle class, rising levels of education, greater income mobility, continued increases in life expectancy, dramatic improvements in the quality of life of the elderly, and so on, all happened only after government revenues rose to what Mankiw apparently believes were objectionable levels. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the increase in the size of government had anything to do with the postwar economic boom. But, at the very least, Mankiw’s graph shows that the supposed negative economic effects of government-spending increases are, at best, empirically very hard to see.

The author is speaking about a chart by conservative economist Greg Mankiw that argues against big government.

Now, this is a stunningly weak argument. I don't know how Mr. Suroweicki determines that the last 65 years has been the most prosperous and full of growth in our nation's history. For instance, we haven't expanded our borders at all.

Furthermore, the last six five years have also benefitted from inventions that have lifted our economy to new stratospheres and many of them were created right before the expansion of government: the automobile, the plane, the television, the radio, the light bulb, and more recently the internet. Suroweicki's supposition then is that we need not worry about government expansion because for the last sixty five years while government has expanded we've also had great economic prosperity.

Talk about a horrible thesis. He doesn't address the idea that the two may likely have correlated rather than caused one another. He puts no context to the growth during the period and the expansion. He simply says that government expansion is a good thing since we have expanded government a lot over the last sixty five years and we've had great growth at the same time.

I would argue that the growth occurred because of several very important inventions, most of which were invented right before the expansion. Furthermore, the growth occurred due to the innovation of the private markets. The growth had little to do with government expansion and of course besides saying it Mr. Suroweicki doesn't back up his theory. If this is the best proponents of big government have, I am ready to debate each and everyone of them.

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