Arnold Kling  

Earmarks and Total Spending

Getting Along in Business... The Genius of Libertarianism...

Tyler Cowen quotes Garett Jones:

The key to controlling spending is permitting more earmarks (sic).

Tyler asks us to guess Garett's model.

One model would be this:

1. Each Congressperson wants to use government spending to buy enough votes to be re-elected.

2. Targeted spending (earmarks) buys more votes per dollar than other spending.

3. Therefore, for every dollar of earmarks you take away, the Congressperson is going to have to add more than a dollar of other spending in order to buy the required number of votes.

This is not the only model, but it is a relatively simple one that gets the result.

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CATEGORIES: Public Choice Theory

COMMENTS (7 to date)
Doc Merlin writes:

The model is completely wrong though. Earmarks are what are used by congressional leaders to bribe lower level congressmen to vote for their bills.

Matt writes:

Agreed, I don't understand how that reduces spending. If earmarks allow more statist laws to be passed then i don't see how allowing more earmarks reduces spending. Take the bailout, if earmarks were illegal it wouldn't have passed, had all earmarks been illegal, gov't spending would be lower.

Matt writes:

Also government is an awkward world of economics, in that in earmarks, the more earmarks you get, generally the more the other guy gets.

JPIrving writes:

Congress may simply use all available tools to maximize total spending. Even after securing reelection they might opt to seek prestige projects, this model seems plausible though.

Also, where is the error that warrants the (sic) ?

Ryan Vann writes:

Seems pretty reasonable to me. It all hinges on assumption 2 being correct though.

Joshua Lyle writes:

"sic" is usually translated to "thus", "so", "as such", "in such a manner", or "naw, really", not "wrong". It simply asserts that the editor has left the statement intact, not that he or she is necessarily calling attention to an error, although that is certainly the most common usage. It is also handy in situations such as this where a reader may reasonably initially suspect that the author intended to write something else and made an error or that the editor did not copy the statement correctly, which would lead to confusion in understanding the point the rest of the post proceeds with.

TJ McNamara writes:

I would try this:

1. Earmark projects are those that the strongest constituent groups at very local levels desire most.

2. Other government spending is actually the larger budget items, willed upon the electorate by central planning initiatives.

3. Therefore, spending on earmarks first will satisfy the electorate and guarantee that large, centrally planned initiatives are left both unsupported and unfunded.

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