The Covid-19 Crisis and Leviathan

by Don Boudreaux on May 1, 2020

in Current Affairs, History, Inventive intervention, The Crisis

I’m thrilled and honored beyond words to be a co-author with the great Robert Higgs – and grateful to Reason for publishing our short essay. A slice:

As crisis followed crisis—World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the multifaceted turmoil of the Johnson-Nixon years, the 9/11 attacks, the Great Recession that began in 2008—the ratchet effect ensured that government’s growth trajectory was displaced upward, time after time. The displacement was not always transparent or immediate, but precedents established in particular episodes reappeared again and again, sometimes after a lag of decades. In this way, government responses to short-run difficulties became lodged in the process by which rapid long-run growth of government became the norm.

People sometimes regretted actions taken hastily during a crisis but found that reversing them was diabolically difficult. As many observers have recognized, nothing is so permanent in government as a temporary agency or an emergency bill. Crises bring into operation new government activities and new scales of spending, taxing, and regulating; they were not intended to be permanent, yet became so by virtue of entrenched special interests and bureaucrats, often backed by congressional sponsors. Act in haste, repent at leisure.

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