The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute

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Discussion: (11 comments)

  1. SeattleSam

    All of these are simply examples of how one group of people has been successful in employing state power to extract money from another group of people. The cover story varies — fairness, living wages, green power, affordable housing, mercantilism — but the underlying process is the same. Free markets do not require state coercion because transactions are all voluntary. But there are always groups who want more than a free system would afford them. They simply have to invent an appealing story to justify the robbery they commit.

    1. Rebekah in Texas

      Well said.

  2. Jon Murphy

    Prof. McCloskey reminds us of the lesson taught right away in economics classes: every action has unintended consequences.

    Part of the reason these ideas and policies linger is they are judged, not on their results, but on their intentions.

    1. Rebekah in Texas

      Both of these statements are true, especially the last one. In this country we are awash with great ideas, all harboring good intentions – too many, in fact, for us to possibly afford to apply. It’s time we judged some of these policies and programs on their results.

  3. MacDaddyWatch

    Ten trillion dollars and almost 50-years later, LBJ’s “War on Poverty” still has the very same folks complaining, bltching and moaning about the very same old things.

    Its time to either end the war or surrender.

    1. Thomas Sullivan

      $15 trillion, but who’s counting.

    2. These words describe all of this – unsustainable and the 60-year liberal experiment is a vuoto (failed). This sort of socialist agenda and this crippling level of unfunded promises and fiscal profligacy is, of course, to create a problem where government supports so many people that it becomes “too big to fail.” That opens the door to the “socialists” to use the only tool left to simultaneously compel us to accept confiscatory taxation and prevent an uprising – morality. They will use our human goodness and concern for our fellow man against us as the foundation for a communist state – because they know, in spite of what they claim about us, that we will not allow our brothers and sisters to starve. Americans are a generous people and neighbors take care of neighbors and there should be some safety net that is available for people who come upon hard times. This safety net should be temporary until the person can become self sufficient again. This safety net should not become a way of life. This country needs a new paradigm.

  4. Texas Conservative

    Prof. McCloskey if spot-on. I can not disagree with anything in her post.

  5. SPOT ON > Malthusian theories hatched in the West were put into practice by India and especially China, resulting in millions of missing girls.

  6. All I ask you to do is, once in a while, consider. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers“…


  7. Dan Farfan

    This post is a tour de force to be certain, but imo, it lacks the final summation (although the call to action is basically good advice, if not a bit hand-wavish). Perhaps the original contains THE nugget.

    As a computer scientist what I see when I read the list of gone-wrongs is crystal clear evidence for what I call the Zero Decision Philosophy. Too many software folks (like politicians) become addicted to making decisions for other people (aka usurping OPF – Other People’s Freedom). This leads to bad software and bad government for exactly the same reason: Decisions belong as close as possible to the hands of their targets.

    This plays out in many ways good when careful & bad when not. I’ll save the details for another time and place.
    But for now, there’s another gone-wrong that illustrates the blog post’s thesis and my point.

    “No border has ever been redrawn by an outsider that didn’t lead to destruction of property and deaths.”


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