Fancies are Not Facts

by Don Boudreaux on May 10, 2010

in Politics, Reality Is Not Optional

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Paul Krugman blames the BP oil spill on interest groups and an “antigovernment ideology” that combined together to thwart government’s ability to perform effectively (“Sex & Drugs & the Spill,” May 10).

Let’s grant, for argument’s sake, that under ideal circumstances all of the many tasks that Mr. Krugman wants government to do can be better performed by government than by the private sector.  It nevertheless doesn’t follow that these tasks should be assigned to government in the real world

In the real world government is unavoidably influenced by interest groups and ideologies – influences that, as Mr. Krugman himself complains, often create problems by preventing government from acting as it would if it were immune to politics and ideology.

Imagining all the great wonders that expansive government could perform in a make-believe world in which government is immune to interest groups and ideologies, Mr. Krugman supports expansive government.  But then he’s surprised and bitter when the influences of interest groups and ideologies cause that government, in reality, to fail.  His attitude is like that of an architect who imagines all the wonderful skyscrapers that could be built if skyscrapers were exempt from the law of gravity, but then complains bitterly when skyscrapers that are built in the real world as if they were exempt from the law of gravity crumble and crash down to earth.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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