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Ten Elements of Clear Thinking About Economic Progress and the Role of Government Common Sense Economics James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Dwight.

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Presentation on theme: "Ten Elements of Clear Thinking About Economic Progress and the Role of Government Common Sense Economics James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Dwight."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ten Elements of Clear Thinking About Economic Progress and the Role of Government Common Sense Economics James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Dwight R. Lee

2 Some Questions to Consider: Why do political results so often differ from what was promised? Why do all governments seem to have a tendency to expand? What are the secondary effects of government policy?

3 What Role for Government? A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvements, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

4 Clear Thinking Proposition #1 Government promotes economic progress by protecting the rights of individuals and supplying goods that cannot be provided through markets.

5 Protective vs. Productive Functions Governments protective function includes the maintenance of a legal framework. Government promotes economic progress by protecting people against loss of their lives, liberties, and properties.

6 Protective vs. Productive Functions (cont.) Governments productive function includes the provision of public goods. Public goods are not easily provided by markets because they are non- rivalrous and characterized by shared consumption.

7 Clear Thinking Proposition #2 Government is not a corrective device.

8 Government as Social Organization Policies favored by majorities do not necessarily promote economic progress. The benefits and costs faced by voters belonging to different interest groups are often disproportionate.

9 Markets & Democracy The fundamental difference between democracy and markets is the governments coercive power to tax. When goods and services are financed by coerced payments, there is NO assurance that they are valued more than they cost.

10 Clear Thinking Proposition #3 The costs of government are not only taxes.

11 3 Types of Costs Incurred 1.The loss of private sector output that could otherwise be produced 2.The cost of resources expended in tax collection and enforcement of government mandates 3.The cost of price distortions caused by taxes and borrowing

12 Loss of Private Sector Output All funds have alternative uses. Public sector production is not entirely financed by tax collection…

13 Costs of Collection & Enforcement $843 BILLION in 2000 $8,200 per household Total government burden represents more than ½ of GDP. Preparation, monitoring and enforcement of tax law and regulatory legislation must be funded.

14 Price Distortions Taxes distort incentives. Some exchanges will not occur because the tax makes them no longer advantageous. Deadweight loss of taxation adds 9-16% above the costs of compliance and regulation.

15 Clear Thinking Proposition #4 Unless restrained by constitutional rules, special-interest groups will use the democratic process to fleece taxpayers and consumers.

16 The Power of Special Interests Special interests will help politicians get elected (money and workers). While others are harmed, there is little incentive to act in opposition. Thus, politicians cater to special interests.

17 A Sweet Example $1.9 billion in sugar subsidies disbursed annually. The average consumer pays $20 per year in higher sugar prices. $13 million contributed to politics by the sugar lobby in WHO WINS????

18 Clear Thinking Proposition #5 Unless restrained by constitutional rules, legislators will run budget deficits and spend excessively.

19 Deficits & Reckless Spending Remnants of the Keynesian revolution Spending is much more politically attractive than taxing. Debt pushes the visible cost of government into the future… Immediate benefits with deferred costs are hard to defeat!

20 Spending Watchdogs Little incentive to be spending watchdogs exists. eg. splitting the bill at dinner Will increased tax revenue control spending inclinations?

21 Clear Thinking Proposition #6 Government slows economic progress when it becomes heavily involved in trying to help some people at the expense of others.

22 Production or Plunder? Only a neutral government can protect its citizenry from plunder. Lost resources directed at favor-seeking are proportional to their efficacy. Counterproductive, favor-seeking activities are a natural outgrowth of unrestrained democracy.

23 Clear Thinking Proposition #7 The costs of government income transfers are far greater than the net gain to intended beneficiaries.

24 Wars on Poverty Difficult at best to improve peoples well-being through income transfers. The unintended consequences of secondary effects get in the way.

25 Ineffectiveness of Income Transfers 1.Reduced incentive of both taxpayer-donor and transfer recipient to earn income Free income reduces work effort and innovation. Increased tax burdens stifle the incentive to produce and earn more. 2.Competition for transfers erodes most of the long-term gain of the intended beneficiaries. When qualification requirements must be met, resources and potential production are wasted as individuals seek to meet them.

26 Income Transfers (cont.) 3.Protection from adversity arising from imprudent decisions makes people more likely to increase the likelihood of that adversity. Consequences of adversity become less severe. Potential recipients have less incentive to avoid adversity. 4.If you subsidize something, you get more of it. Transfers directed toward the poor unintentionally encourage high-risk lifestyles. Charitable efforts are crowded out.

27 Clear Thinking Proposition #8 Central planning replaces markets with politics, which wastes resources and retards economic progress.

28 The Man of System The man of system is apt to be very wise to his own conceit. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. -Adam Smith

29 The Fatal Conceit of Central Planning 1.Central planning merely substitutes politics for market verdicts. Subsidies and investment funds disbursed by planners are still influenced by political considerations. Old firms tend to be favored over new, growth-oriented firms. Pork barrel projects are still pursued. 2.The incentive of government-operated firms to keep costs low, be innovative, and efficiently supply goods is weak. Little is to be gained from efficiency gains and/or lower costs. Higher per-unit costs are the norm as budgets expand and efficiency gains are not realized.

30 The Fatal Conceit (cont.) 3.Investors risking their own money will make better investment choices than central planners spending the money of taxpayers. Private investors bear the consequences of poor investments directly. Since little personal wealth is realized by planners, there exists little incentive to increase productivity and/or conserve resources. 4.There is no way that central planners can acquire enough information to create, maintain, and constantly update a plan that makes sense. Markets are most adept at channeling information to both producers and consumers via the price system.


32 Clear Thinking Proposition #9 Competition is just as important in government as in markets.

33 Government & Competition Leaders of public sector firms have little incentive to cut costs and/or increase productivity. The profit rate is an index of performance for firms in the private sector. Poor performance is often an argument for increased state funding instead of the stricture of bankruptcy. Citizens hold differing views on appropriate public expenditures; a centralized system cannot accommodate multiple viewpoints.

34 Clear Thinking Proposition #10 Constitutional rules that bring the political process and sound economics into harmony will promote economic progress.

35 A Pipe Dream? The scope of government must be limited. An unconstrained government results in lost productivity as people fight over their pieces of the pie…so the pie never gets any bigger. Constitutional checks: –10 th Amendment –5 th Amendment

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