Saturday, June 19, 2004


The Left's tactical weapons: "The last 25 years have seen an intellectual victory by the Right over the Left on the topic of central planning. ... Thus, conservatives might be lulled into thinking that we have beaten back the argument for big government. However, the Left has not gone away. It has mutated, and as Sebastian Mallaby suggests, those of us who advocate small government may very well be losing...

The left uses the Corruption weapon to attack the legitimacy of business enterprises, conservatives, and Republicans... Faced with the Corruption charge, the Right faces a dilemma. Nobody wants to defend mistakes or adverse results. However, if the Right caves in to every demand, then the corporate profits that do not disappear under a mountain of regulation will be extracted via shakedowns (called "settlements"). If business and war had to be conducted perfectly to be conducted at all, then we would have not have any private enterprise in our economy and we would not have won a single war in our history.... In order to reduce the abuse of the Corruption weapon, we need to make a habit of always pointing out cases where it is used to attack rather than to strengthen our society. Our goal should be to help sensitize the public to the difference between constructive criticism on the one hand and efforts to undermine our economy and our foreign policy on the other... We also need to emphasize to the public the large costs of Nader-esque crusades. Hasty legislation, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, tends to penalize decent, well-run corporations a great deal, for very little benefit in constraining the future behavior of unscrupulous individuals.

The other banner under which the Left marches is Compassion. If you favor more market-oriented approaches to health care, education, or Social Security, you will be accused of a lack of compassion -- of throwing grandma out of her wheelchair.... Instead of trying to placate the Left on Compassion, I believe that we ought to emphasize the ways in which government compassion is an oxymoron. In particular: The taxes to fund government compassion create new groups of needy people. For example, many of the young families without health insurance pay thousands of dollars a year in Social Security taxes.... Government compassion does not target the needy, but instead leads to state control of everyone's education, health care, and retirement security. In Thomas Sowell's phrase, "The left uses the poor as human shields".. For reducing the population of the needy, economic growth works better than government aid. As Robert Lucas (Nobel, 1995) put it recently, "of the vast increase in the well-being of hundreds of millions of people that has occurred in the 200-year course of the industrial revolution to date, virtually none of it can be attributed to the direct redistribution of resources from rich to poor. The potential for improving the lives of poor people by finding different ways of distributing current production is nothing compared to the apparently limitless potential of increasing production."


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