Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Which is most damaging?

Thomas Sowell, a well-known nationally syndicated economist and author of many scholarly books on political economy, has a very insightful article today where he points out how government officials will manipulate public opinion in order to achieve desired budgetary goals.  Basically, Sowell shows, if one of two spending options has to be reduced or eliminated, pols will often choose the most damaging and, hence, public option in order to show how cutting in any form is unacceptable.  His opening paragraph employs his inimitable insight and captivating style:
Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency's budget were cut, what would it do?
The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.
Brilliant.  But then, that's what Sowell does.  This article is not long but is highly recommended. (Big hat tip to Cafe Hayek).