"Flow of stimulus funds still only a trickle"

From an MSNBC story claiming that only "about $53 billion of $479 billion in this year's available stimulus has been disbursed by federal agencies. Probably because it takes a bit of time to print it.

Inflation comments aside, this helps illustrate how much people attribute random govt. interventions to the health of the economy. What evidence is there to support Bush's original "stimulus" with bringing things around? None. Yet so many (Republicans, especially, and me included at the time I'm sorry to say) claimed it worked simply because the economy eventually did turn around. More recently the economy seemed to be picking up, so Obama's plan was hailed as working. But now the latest numbers seem to indicate that it's not doing quite so well. So ... what's going on?

The thing is, these things tend to self-correct pretty quickly on their own, or at least with a few minor adjustments here and there, that is assuming there hasn't already been a whole lot of meddling in the first place (Which there has. It's been building up over many decades but especially over the past ten years). In all the history of governments' attempts to fix economies there isn't much to be positive about. Many claim that FDR brought us out of the Depression. But compared with several past economic depressions that had similar beginnings, the Depression had tons more govt. intervention and endced up lasting 5 times longer. What was better about that? There were many economic downturns in the past but recovery came pretty quick. It wasn't until we had massive govt. intervention in the 30s that we had a Great Depression.

It's also weird that so many of those who decry the apparent greed-increasing-so-called-free-market of today got so upset because of, well, a lack of economic prosperity. Come again? The free-market is encourages greed so what we need is a stable flow of money in the economy that encourages laziness and greed? I was a bit taken aback by a talk I first heard given by Jeffrey Tucker (who, it turns out, is a fantastic teacher) in which he said that a stable economy makes him nervous, whereas he's much more happy about downturns. I'd have to go back to what he said specifically, but apparently it has something to do with the fact that people are much more likely to act irresponsibly and not learn anything with the former but with the latter the economy tends to correct or discard its wayward parts. Fascinating. But no one has this attitude today. If the economy is bad, if people have to start cutting corners and, gasp, perhaps not be able to afford 200+ channels of HDTV, then something's gone horribly wrong! Don't misunderstand me. I realize there are many people who suffer from a bad economy, but with the usual natural turnaround of economies is tends not to be for very long. Trying to make sure no one suffers is a surefire way to make sure everyone does in the end.

Does the govt. have a role in the economy? Of course. At the very basic level we need rule of law. Individuals need enough confidence to take the risks that are needed for things to turn around. But just as with a lack of stable law, so also with improper govt. meddling (as much as it has been for years, long before Obama), no one takes risks, no one takes initiative. People sit back and wait for the govt. to fix everything, to keep things in such a state that we can continue to afford all our entertainment indulgences we've grown to depend on. Have you noticed how many people, departments, companies, investors are waiting and see what the govt. does? What kind of economy is that? It's part of my job to wade through the news every morning and summarize the most imp. articles as a part of a daily brief for the office and if I had a quarter for all the "so-and-so waiting on stimulus funds for such-and-such" articles I'd be a rich man.

It all reminds me of my wife's story about when she was in Africa and traveled into the bush. One of the tribes there had marked out an area for a school they wanted to start, but nothing had been done about it for years. My wife asked them why they hadn't tried to do anything about it for so long. "Oh, we're waiting for a Westerner to come along and give us the money for it." That attitude, rooted in the hearts and minds of an entire culture, is a straight-up economy killer. Now the West seems hell-bent on turning itself into dependency culture too.

(HT Jonah Goldberg and Brian Doherty)


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