… is from Leland Yeager’s 1981 essay “Costs, Sources, and Control of Inflation,” reprinted in Leland B. Yeager, The Fluttering Veil (George Selgin, ed.; Liberty Fund, 1997), pp. 33-84; the following quotation is on p. 46:
… a decent restraint in clamoring for government action to redistribute income from others to oneself is a public, not a private, good.
This quotation beautifully capsulizes one reason for the heat generated by the debate today over raising Uncle Sam’s debt ceiling. Those many non-creditors of Uncle Sam who, without disruption, would get $$$ from him if the debt ceiling were raised, insist that his ability to transfer $$$ to them from others not be hamstrung by something so bourgeois as a silly ol’ debt ceiling. (Oh – and I’m sure that the following question must have been asked at least 1,001 times during the past couple of weeks – but what’s the significance or purpose of a statutorily set debt ceiling if the expectation is that it will be raised without question to accommodate the need, or simply the desire, for government to borrow more than is allowed by the existing ceiling?)
By entering the income-’redistribution’ business, government – justified by so many ‘scientifically’ minded folks chiefly for its alleged capacity to ‘solve’ public-goods ‘problems’ – created a huge public-goods problem.