Thursday, June 02, 2011

Politicians and economic literacy

Every cent spent by government was taken by force out of our economy. That’s not always a bad thing, of course, because certain government functions are vitally important. We’re all better off when contracts are enforced and crimes (real crimes) are punished. There is a legitimate debate about where precisely the limits on essential government functions are, but today’s political debate is of a different sort. The debate today is about whether there are any legitimate limits on the powers of government.

One important way to understand and describe the importance of limited government is through the language of economics (“rightly understood,” as Aquinas might say). Milton Friedman provided one important explanation, common sense really, about human nature and spending money (video). And there are many people, starting with Frederic Bastiat, who have knocked over the flimsy but rampant idea that you can create wealth by destroying wealth. When you think about it, those illustrative “broken windows” are a lot like taxation….

The next time you hear a legislator crowing about bringing some of your own tax money back to your community, you might ask why they didn’t just leave it there in the first place.

The Freedom Foundation that used to have its own name is offering a short, inexpensive course in basic economics at six locations around the state during June. The first class is in Tacoma early next week.

Generic Freedom Foundation

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