Taking the Long View

by Don Boudreaux on November 29, 2007

in Myths and Fallacies, Politics, Property Rights

Here’s a letter that I sent a few days ago to the Washington Times:

Carl Henn asserts that “Congress can . . . react in ways that protect our long-term interest, while marketplaces can’t, due to the tyranny of short-term monetary pressures” (Letters, November 27).  Mr. Henn mistakes imagination for reality.

Although imperfect, markets routinely take the long-run view.  The reason is that assets and firms designed for long, productive lives generally have higher values today than do assets designed only with tomorrow in mind.  If, for example, Southwest Airlines were tyrannized by short-term monetary pressures, it would never spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying or leasing a fleet of 737 jets.

Where short-term pressures truly reign tyrannically is in politics.  An elected official’s time horizon extends no further than the next election.  If spending money today will buy votes, experience shows that such spending will occur regardless of its long-term wisdom.  I challenge Mr. Henn to defend the federal budget as being a shining example of long-term planning for the greater good.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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