Wednesday, October 06, 2010

It's not just me anymore

The latest progressive meme is that the government should run like a business and any business in the government's situation would rationally and profitably borrow a lot of money and invest it right now. Mark Thoma and P. Krugman have made arguments like this and Ezra K. has a recent plaintive one in the WaPo.

The problems with this line of reasoning are many. For example, (1) the government ISN'T a business. Profit (or even ROI) is not its bottom line. (2) If the government were a business, its shareholders (i.e. us) wouldn't have to wait til November to boot our current management team. (3) In most businesses that I am aware of, management cannot vote to help themselves to more money from their shareholders.

People, it's not just me anymore; the "American street" simply doesn't trust the government to do things right.

At least Ezra does recognize that our government doesn't "do" infrastructure in a business-like manner:

The problem is that the way we choose our infrastructure projects is an embarrassment. About 10 percent of infrastructure spending comes from politicians securing earmarks. Most of the rest depends on a formula in which the government just hands money over to the states. There's no requirement for cost-benefit analysis or rate-of-return calculations. The decisions are horribly politicized.

Nice, but then he just hand-waves it away by saying we need to tie further massive borrowing to vague "reforms".

Good luck on that one, EK!

1 comment:

John Thacker said...

It's not clear how Ezra expects to take the political out of politics. Or exactly why he thinks "handing it to state governments" based on formulas (involving contributions, population, income, amount of road to maintain, etc.) is so bad, but "handing it to the federal government" is so good.