Barnacles, Schmarnacles

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

George Will notes the process by which entitlements that cost little (in monetary terms) to most, but pay off like a lottery ticket to a few become entrenched in our federal budget:

These clients thrive in obscurity because of the law that governs much of government, the law of dispersed costs and concentrated benefits. Taxpayers do not notice, unless someone like [Jonathan] Rauch tells them, the costs of subsidizing whaling museums or mohair, but the subsidies mean much to those who run the museums or produce the mohair. Similarly, consumers do not notice the cost of sugar import quotas added to the sugar they consume, quotas that substantially enrich sugar producers. And so on and on.
Will is correct, but it is worth noting why this picture is possible in the first place: Most people lack a principled rejection of government theft (e.g., taxation and inflation). Were Americans intolerant of having even a cent lifted from their wallets, such a state of affairs would be impossible. We are far from such a cultural shift today, and Will is correct that such "barnacles" as the mohair subsidy will likely persist for some time.

The barnacles may well persist for a time even after things begin to improve. This is because the much bigger fish of the major entitlements and regulation will need frying first. But the changes those will entail will eventually also rid us of the barnacles. Such barnacles are but examples of why such attention-hungry efforts as the "Pork Busters" have always struck me as futile grandstanding.

-- CAV


Today: (1) Corrected URL to George Will piece. (2) Changed "George" to "Will" after excerpt. (Far be it from me to further the trend towards the use of first names when there is no personal familiarity.) (3) Added "[Jonathan]" before "Rauch" in excerpt.

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