Government Is Poor At Picking Winners – Anywhere

by Don Boudreaux on August 29, 2014

in Hubris and humility, Man of System, Other People's Money, Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, Subsidies, War

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Properly decrying the CIA’s arming of anti-Assad Syrian rebels who turned out also to be anti-American ISIS jihadists, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wisely warns of the unintended ill consequences of Uncle Sam’s meddling in foreign affairs (“How U.S. Interventionists Abetted the Rise of ISIS,” August 28).  This episode, of course, is not the first in which U.S. government subsidies to a foreign belligerent succeeded only in making the world more dangerous for peaceable people.

The lesson is clear: government is just as bad at picking winners when intervening in foreign affairs as it is at picking winners when intervening in economic affairs.  The same combination of hubris, imprudence, carelessness, misinformation, and myopia that leads government officials to spend other people’s treasure in support of economically calamitous ventures at home (such as subsidies to Solyndra) also leads these officials to spend other people’s treasure - and lives - in support of strategically calamitous ventures abroad (such as subsidies to Syrian rebels).

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

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