The editorial page editor at Barron’s, Thomas G. Donlan, praises the benefits of inaction in a recent commentary (subscriber link).

Would America like to balance its federal budget — or at least come close?

“Don’t just do something, stand there.” To come back from the edge of insolvency, the government can employ this important principle of management, possibly derived from Hippocrates’ injunction to doctors, “First, do no harm.” Another version, engraves by Alexander Pope and still legible in the popular culture, reads, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Unfortunately for those who believe in limited government, Donlan invokes the inertia option to remind us that “current law would turn the clock back to the tax laws of 2000,” eliminating all Bush tax cuts and the temporary tax breaks championed by President Obama. Though Donlan appears to endorse the option, even he recognizes one of its chief problems when he notes:

The rest of the reveue increase projected by the CBO would come from growth in income — if, in fact, income would grow under the heavier tax burden.”

Carolina Journal Radio listeners might remember a much more beneficial use of the “don’t just do something” mantra, courtesy of Thomas Woods. Woods pushed for a do-nothing option as an alternative to government simulus programs.