6.12.12

ADVANTAGE, COLD SPRING SHOPS.

Reason's Sheldon Richman calls out Rachel Maddow for conflating society and government.
Maddow's unspoken premise: An achievement isn't great if the government has nothing to do with it. Government does big things. We mere private individuals do only small things. The bias toward government—a curious thing when you consider that its essence is the legal power to use physical force against peaceful individuals—couldn't be more stark. Yet what grounds are there for believing this? When people are left free to innovate and produce, they routinely take risks to achieve things that are great in the sense that they make our lives better, healthier, and longer. Moreover, much of what makes life better is the cumulative effect of many "small" achievements, marginal improvements in products and services. Any one of them may be small, but the total effect on our lives is great. We'd be worse off without them.

Echoing President Obama and Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, Maddow apparently believes that no private accomplishment is possible without government support through spending on infrastructure, education, and research. But that is wrong. All of those things can be and have been provided in the private market. Government has a way of crowding out private efforts and then asserting its own importance because of the lack of private alternatives. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy!
We'll leave the political economy of the closing paragraph or so to the reader. We'll also note the income accounting fundamentals missing from any discussion of public capital and the presence of recent, privately financed, infrastructure improvements that put Chinese railway improvements to shame.

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