by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Richard Fernandez uses a PJMedia.com column to contrast the world as improved by private enterprise with the world afflicted by government.
That we live in the best of times is proved, according to the Cato Institute, by that almost everything — except “the highly distorted healthcare, education and housing markets” — is cheaper than ever before. “Consider two common kitchen appliances: the microwave and the refrigerator.” In 1979 a microwave oven cost 61 hours of average American wages to buy. Today it can be had for six. A 13 cubic foot refrigerator took 75 wage-hours to obtain in 1979. Now one can go and buy it for 36.
We live in an age of miracles. Reusable rocket boosters, genetic engineering, additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence and true robotics. In 2005 it was reported that “for the first time in recorded history, poverty rates began to fall in every region of the world, including Africa”. The World Bank notes that only 10% of the global population are below the absolute poverty limit and, if present trends continue it will reach zero by 2030.
But this magnificent historical vehicle is rolling along unbalanced, on one set of wheels. The refrigerators, microwave ovens, cell phones and cars now so cheap were made by private enterprise whose falling prices are responsible for nearly all of this growing global prosperity. The side of the car which runs on the square wheels of politics is not nearly so progressive and is the main source our ‘worst of times’. …
… For some, even in the West, the future is the New Deal. In 2015 the US government’s 2015 share of GDP was larger than even its WW2 peak. While nearly 70% of this vast sum was spent on social security, Medicare, veteran’s benefits, education and housing, it had little effect on income equality. After government has spent trillions of dollars on transfer payments the Brookings Institute warns that American society was dividing in two. …
… Government appears to have outsmarted itself. Noam Schreiber and Patricia Cohen of the New York Times argue the tax system — the preferred liberal instrument for promoting income equality — was in fact the biggest cause of disparity. They wrote that “the very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income.” …
… The duality of our age — as befits the worst of times and the best of times — is captured by the circumstance that Forbes’ candidate for the most profitable industry for 2016 is health technology which reflects the fact there is often more money in getting people out of a hole than filling it in the first place. The big need to help people escape from the “benefits” of the Affordable Care Act underlines the ambiguous nature of progress in the age of Obama, and indeed in every age.
The last paragraph reminds us that the law of unintended consequences can produce some unexpected winners and losers.