Friday, January 28, 2011

God, Darwin and Big Government

I wish I'd written this:

Intelligent Economic Design by Brad DeLong

DeLong uses the metaphor of debates about evolution and intelligent design to illustrate a few straightforward points about the role of politics in economic development. The neat trick, rhetorically, is that the same people who find the natural world too complex to have evolved without divine intervention often also believe that the modern-day American economy is a wondrous product of spontaneous private initiative, and that attempts by politicians to interfere with it ('intelligent economic design') will surely mess it up. In other words, when it comes to the natural world, God is a kind of socialist government making sure everything comes out right. But earthly politicians of course have the opposite effect...

The fact that nothing in an economy happens without significant government involvement (money, for a start) means that arguments for getting the government out of the economy are actually no such thing. It also means, unfortunately, that there is always a way to blame the government when the market screws up - witness the scandalous behaviour of Republicans on the Financial Crisis Investigation Commission.