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The Stimulus Error
This post by Arnold Kling is the most compact and powerful thing I've read recently.
I remain resolutely opposed to all government bailouts and to any "stimulus" package that increases government spending. The economy is already reeling from the credit crunch. The last thing it needs is for government to crowd out productive activity by squandering resources on alleged public goods.
Arnold guesses that about 500 people would have significant influence on how a stimulus would be spent:
He is much too generous. I cannot imagine a wise technocrat taking even $1 of mine and spending it more wisely than I would. The technocrat does not know me, my situation, my goals, my desires. Only I do. It's a certainty that if my dollar is taken and spent by the government, I'll get less value than if I had spent it myself. The same is true for you.
I'm surprised that Arnold cast the hypothetical in the way he did. I cannot even conceive what it means, except in a comic-book-like way, to spend someone's money better than they would spend it themselves. Better by what standard? It's enormously arrogant to claim that the technocrat's goals are superior in any objective sense to the taxpayer's.
There are no collective goals. There are only the goals of individuals.