Arnold Kling  

If Government Were a Rich Man

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Keynes and Hayek--They're B-a-... Me and the Elephants...

Wintercow20 writes,


The US government (all levels) has 20% more resources itself than the largest economy in the world does yet it cannot take care of health care for the poor and chronically infirm? Where on the list of priorities must this really be? Is it ahead of mohair subsidies, sugar subsidies, windmill subsidies, funding for education schools, and so on? What kind of bizarre world am I living in? And I am being asked to sacrifice a little more just to see that we'll get it right this time?

Read the whole thing. The usual bleeding-heart cry is that it is absurd for a society to have people as rich as Bill Gates and still have poverty. But government is much, much, much richer than Bill Gates, and no bleeding heart complains about government's indifference or misplaced priorities.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (11 to date)
Tracy W writes:

How can the US government have more resources than the US economy? Am I missing something?

Douglass Holmes writes:

It appeared to me to be a rant of frustration that the world just doesn't work the way the writer wants it to.
I don't care how much money the government has, it is not going to be able to take care of everyone's healthcare concerns to everyone's satisfaction. Neither is the free market. Both systems have flaws, but people continue to believe in the myth that the government can conquer any problem that the people want conquered.

liberty writes:

And of course people do complain about misplaced priorities: http://www.foodnotbombs.net/bakesale_poster.html

Foobarista writes:

The problem is wealth isn't "resources". It's what is done with those resources, or by people generally. The US government has a lot of assets, but since many (most?) are illiquid (and often correctly so), they can't be converted to wealth.

The "booty theory of wealth" is where much of the Left gets completely lost, since it leads to silly notions such as "spreading the wealth", etc.

As for taxes, I now reject the idea that taxes are "theft", but more accurately a form of conscription; taxes paid with money (as opposed to old-fashioned taxes-in-kind) let the government conscript part of your work for its purposes without you actually needing to directly do the work.

Hyena writes:

Aren't all rants about "Bill Gates" ended with "that's why the government needs to...."

David R. Henderson writes:

Arnold,
I have the same problem Tracy W. has. A part cannot be bigger than the whole of which it is a part.
Did Wintercow mean 20% more than the next largest economy?

Rick Stewart writes:

@Tracy the US govt actually has 20% more resources than the next largest economy.

I thought the piece was excellent, although it perpetuates the myth that 'poor' people can't afford to buy their own health insurance. Simple arithmetic proves otherwise.

I am 59 yrs., buy an individual Blue Cross/Blue Shield policy at $288/month or $3,456/year ($5,000 deductible, it pays 100% after that, any provider, anywhere in the world, $2 million lifetime benefit).

At minimum wage of $7.25/hr I would only have to work one 10 hr shift per weekend, for 48 weeks per year, to pay for my policy.

Of course 'poor' people don't WANT to pay for their own health insurance. Neither do I!!! But it takes precious little effort to actually do it.

Colin K writes:

OK, it has some methodological errors, but as an ideological flensing knife it works quite well.

If Americans are willing to tolerate a federal budget that runs, say, 22.3% of GDP, shouldn't social liberals make common cause with fiscal conservatives to see that as little of that as possible goes to all these indulgences? I suspect there are at least tens of billions of dollars of wringable waste in the budget, even before getting into wholesale liquidation of D.of Ed and other conservative betes noir.

You could solve some of the worst social injustices of the current system (like denial for preexisting conditions, c.f. my 32yo ex-GF who had cancer as a child and is basically uninsurable on her own) for a lot closer to $20B/year than the ~$100B that ACA is set to cost.

John Fast writes:

@Tracy W The claim by Alex in this post, as I understand it, is that the federal government has much more resources than any single individual, even Bill the Gates. The claim by Wintercow20 is unclear to me, unless he means that the US government's spending is 20% higher than the total amount of private spending.

@liberty Thank you, your posting is a step ahead of me.

@Colin K I agree with you, and unfortunately that's not what's important to politicians. To quote a friend of mine, "Politicians always say they are against waste and some of them actually mean it, except when the waste benefits them."

wintercow20 writes:

Yes, I meant that the combined US government is much bigger than the next largest economies in the world – the Japanese and Chinese each at roughly $5 trillion depending on how we measure it.

Tracy W writes:

Wintercow2 - thanks for clearing that up.

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