Monday, April 21, 2008

Quote Of The Day (Supply-Sider Edition)

Wow, those guys really hate government, huh?
There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.

That, by the way, was Milton Friedman (via India Uncut).

By the way, I don't think it's a coincidence that people in relatively cushy environments can deride government so. If you're rich and successful, you don't need the police; you hire private security. If you're rich and successful, you don't need public schools; you send your kids to the most exclusive and high-priced schools available. If you're rich and successful, you don't need government health-care; you get the best private care in the world.

I'm no socialist, I promise you. In particular, I do think sometimes government intervention can do more harm than good, and I do think some problems are better left to the private sector than the public. But it is quite shocking some times the extent to which some people will take that logic (especially at, ahem, one particular Econ department), and simply presume that all government is inherently bad. The problems of externalities and collective action are all too-easily assumed or deduced away.

Anyway, all this reminds me of another quote, this time from Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France during the end of World War I: "Any man who is not a socialist at age 20 has no heart. Any man who is still a socialist at age 40 has no head."


Asfandyar said...

There were a couple of really good opinion pieces a while back from George Monbiot and Ulrich Beck talking about the hypocrisy of the NR and Neocons when it comes to economics.

Specifically in the light of the current economic conditions around an d how IMF right-wingers are coming out and telling Governments to help out companies like Bear Stearns (sic) and Northern Rock...companies who've been against intervention themselves when things have been good.

It's been weird though. The right were, at one point in time very Keynesian (quote even Reagen stating how "We're all Keynesian now" to being very Hayekian (europe atleast, with Thatcher) to now wanting Keynes back.

I love that quote from Clemenceau though, sets the appeal and ultimately the fallibility of socialism perfectly.

Ahsan said...

Ah, Asfand, but don't you see? They *had* to bail Bear Stearns out; if they didn't, the entire economy would collapse. On the other hand, they *couldn't* bail homeowners out - that would be rewarding bad decision making.