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A Major Turn of the Higgsian Ratchet

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


Writing about the off-the-charts fraud and abuse of Covid “relief” programs, James Freeman homes in nicely on a key point (“The Great American Rip-Off,” June 12):

For that matter perhaps the people who endorsed the idea of shuttering much of the U.S. economy in response to Covid-19, expanding the Federal Reserve balance sheet by nearly $4 trillion and adding more than $4 trillion to the nation’s publicly held debt can explain if their strategy depends on whether the recipients of cash are lawful or law-abiding. When one is dumping money out of a helicopter it’s not so easy to dictate who catches it.

That Bernie Bros, New York Times staffers, CNN reporters, and other Progressives – along with power-drunk government officials of diverse persuasions – urged that Covid be fought with unprecedented, act-now-ask-questions-later expansions of government power isn’t surprising. What is surprising is the silence over the past 18 months – your pages being an admirable exception – of so many wise voices upon which we usually depend to check the presumptions and dangerous schemes of those who treat government as able to act with the benevolence, knowledge, and abilities of God.

With so many otherwise dependable voices rendered mute by fear of Covid, we lost a far more justified and productive fear – to wit, fear of unchecked government power. We’ll live for years with the economic and fiscal carnage. Worse, we’ll live for generations with the terrible precedent that treats an encounter with any unusually high risk as justification for disproportionate – indeed, unrestrained – assaults on human freedom.

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