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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “Stimulus, Mackey & Krugman”

In my column for the September 2nd, 2009, edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I took on three events then current that called for some basic economic analysis and common sense. You can read my column beneath the fold (link added).

Stimulus, Mackey & Krugman

Here I offer questions and observations on some pressing issues of the day.

First a question: If many politicians and pundits assert that today’s economic troubles are the bitter fruit of 30-plus years of deregulation and laissez-faire economic policies, why do many of these same pols and pundits expect the “stimulus” package to work? Surely an economy whose infrastructure, regulatory apparatuses and industrial and financial arrangements have been terribly neglected and distorted from three decades of seriously unwise policies cannot be made to recover simply by government adding hundreds of billions of dollars of “aggregate demand” to that economy.

Indeed, even a trillion or two dollars worth of spending will have at most only a negligible effect in an economy so long drained of important safeguards and disfigured by greed.

But if the stimulus does work — if the economy does recover as a result of this massive spending — then doesn’t it follow that whatever deregulation has occurred since the mid-1970s was, in fact, not as disastrous as many folks now make it out to be?

After all, how structurally damaged is an economy and its legal framework if the mere spending of lots more money to “stimulate” demand is sufficient to restore that economy to reasonable health?


Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that he opposes ObamaCare. Mr. Mackey offered the following radical thesis: “Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.”

For his apostasy on this front, a movement to boycott Whole Foods quickly jelled. Many proponents of ObamaCare are promising to never again shop at Whole Foods.

How hypocritical. Persons who seek greater government control over health care proudly exercise their ability to vote with their dollars to avoid patronizing a store run by a chief executive whose opinion they dislike. Yet the very opinion that they so fiercely dislike is one that, should it be heeded, would enhance the ability of health-care consumers to vote with their dollars.

So I propose the opposite of a Whole Foods boycott — call it a “girlcott”: We opponents of ObamaCare should all go out of our way to spend our grocery dollars at Whole Foods.


New York Times columnist Paul Krugman — along with lots of other fans of ObamaCare — is shocked and appalled at the intense opposition arising at various town hall meetings. Professor Krugman and other members of the Church of Big Government are convinced that those who protest against ObamaCare are either misinformed or are agents of billionaires set on protecting ill-gotten privileges — even if doing so keeps many ordinary Americans poor and sick.

The Krugmans of the world simply can’t fathom the fact that many Americans still value their freedom, still wish to preserve a wide sphere of personal responsibility, fear a larger government even if members of that government proclaim their good intentions, and understandably worry that the size and intrusiveness of any major new intervention, such as ObamaCare, will eventually exceed even what its most ardent supporters foresee.

No, the Krugmans of the world mistakenly believe that every individual yearns to be coddled and protected by government. And the Krugmans of the world naively assume that a democratically elected government will coddle and protect, just as the textbooks written by the Krugmans of the world describe.

That many men and women still love liberty and responsibility, and that many of these same men and women maturely realize that politicians often disguise their true intentions — and that government programs often morph into Frankenstein monsters — seem lost on Paul Krugman and his ilk.

So Professor Krugman and Co. can conclude only that ObamaCare opponents are either muddle-headed or mercenary (or both).

Smug in their imagined intellectual and moral superiority, the Krugmans of the world remain utterly blind to some of the most basic facts about people and about government.

Never mind, though. The Krugmans of the world are angry that ObamaCare opponents don’t interpret the proposed health-care “reform” in the happy and innocent way that Barack Obama and, say, Moveon.org would like that reform to be interpreted.

For example, consider the proposed special tax on people who don’t buy government-approved health-insurance. The reformers say that this requirement is part of the process of “expanding choice.” The rubes who oppose ObamaCare say that this requirement reduces choice.

Perhaps only Nobel Prize-caliber minds can see why the reformers’ interpretation is correct.