Friday, October 5, 2012

On the role of government...

One of the important questions Jim Lehrer asked President Obama and Rmoney Tuesday night was how they conceived the role of government. Rmoney answer was standard conservative swallop about individualism, big bad gubmint, blah, blah. Obama's answer was, to my mind, maddeningly half-hearted. Over on Facebook, Texas Christian University (of all places to find a good heterdox economist!) Professor of Economics John Harvey gets it exactly right:
Oh, jiminy, now the private sector vs. public sector crap. Different goals, different methods. The private sector does stuff that is profitable, much of which is of little social value (pornography, fashion, reality TV, sports, conspicuous consumption and pecuniary emulation of every variety, etc.), while the government does the stuff that is of social value but not profitable (national defense, health care, parks, libraries, education, etc.). Saying the private sector is more efficient because it earns profits is like saying that Peyton Manning is a better athlete than Babe Ruth because he scores more touchdowns. Babe Ruth isn't supposed to score touchdowns.
Another think about the debate Tuesday night: it should be noted that President Obama refused to defend Social Security. Via Facebook again, economist Mike Norman posted this Youtube video of a speech by President John F. Kennedy. It provides a stark contrast to the excruciatingly weak conception of the role of government provided by Barack Obama.

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