Profile image
By Cafe Hayek (Reporter)
Contributor profile | More stories
Story Views

Last Hour:
Last 24 Hours:

Who’s Blind?

Thursday, March 16, 2017 17:57
% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.

(Don Boudreaux)


Here’s a letter to a very aggressive correspondent – an American college student who describes himself as a “progressive humanitarian rationalist.”

Mr. Ethan Petersen

Mr. Petersen:

You ask why “free market believers [are] blind to hardships and suffering caused when government benefits are taken away by budget cutters like President Trump.”

Because I’ve not commented upon Trump’s budget proposals, I’m unsure why you pose (and with such vitriol!) this question to me.  Still, I’ll address your question.

The premise of your question is faulty.  Like you and other Progressives, we who oppose big, grasping, intrusive, officious government are not blind to the benefits enjoyed by recipients of government largess.  Therefore, we are not blind to the losses suffered by those who must get by with less government largess when budgets are cut.  Unlike you and other Progressives, however, we also are not blind to the losses suffered by those whose resources are seized in order to pay for this largess.  Therefore, we also are not blind to the gains enjoyed by those who get to keep larger shares of their own incomes when budgets are cut.

When budgets are cut, it’s easy to see the likes of government employees who lose jobs, farmers who get smaller subsidy checks, arts exhibitions that must now survive exclusively on private contributions, and poor people whose welfare payments fall.  But the analysis and conversation nearly always stop there.  If cutting funding for some government-funded activity is found to cause some hardship (and which such activity isn’t so found?), cutting government funding of that activity is typically deemed cruel and wrong.  But what is too-seldom asked is: As compared to what?  What will those who now keep more of their incomes spend this money on?  In what ways will the money now left in the private sector be invested?  What new products, businesses, and economic opportunities might be created now that the state no longer seizes these resources from those who create or earn them?  And how will system-wide incentives change when government reduces taxes and spending?

It is, I’m sure, immensely gratifying for you to strut your adorned moral superiority when you believe that you and your ilk are uniquely aware of the benefits enjoyed by recipients of government largess.  Yet your sanctimonious accusation that libertarians are “blind” to unseen consequences of budgetary moves reveals that the blind one is you.  You see only the benefits enjoyed by those on the receiving end of government spending.  You are blind to the corresponding burdens of such spending.  You ignore the losses imposed not only on those who directly pay for government-bestowed benefits, but also on the much larger number of easy-to-miss people – consumers and workers – whose economic well-being is jeopardized when the state takes more and more resources out of the private sector (which is governed by the discipline of having to please consumers who spend their own money) and places these resources at the disposal of politicians and bureaucrats (who are governed only by the discipline of voters and interest groups who spend other people’s money).

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030


We encourage you to Share our Reports, Analyses, Breaking News and Videos. Simply Click your Favorite Social Media Button and Share.

Report abuse


Your Comments
Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

Top Stories
Recent Stories



Top Global

Top Alternative



Email this story
Email this story

If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.