The Debate We're Not Going to Have

Matt Yglesias writes:

One thing people are disagreeing about when they disagree about the stimulus is about the value of public sector activities.

So true. The “OH MY GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE FROM RECESSION MONSTER” rush to pass the deficit spending package is a travesty of democracy because we could really use a serious national debate on the value of various forms of public spending. But that was summarily preempted. This bill is a transparent vehicle for an immense amount of new public spending, much of which will have no effect other than to benefit certain political constituncies and make most of us poorer. I find the debate over what kinds of government spending are and are not conducive to broad prosperity really interesting. It’s too bad we couldn’t have passed a responsible Rivlinesque stimulus bill, leaving open the possibility of increasing the value of public sector activities by better identifying which of those activities actually have value. But when a political party has a chance to pay off their hungry clients after years of famine, it’s a bit much to ask for a pause for intelligent public deliberation. I guess that’s why it never seems to happen!

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center