Fix This Problem, Not That One

I recommend Bryan Caplan’s EconLog post, Arbitrary Intervention. Here’s a snippet:

Imagine writing a list of everything wrong with the world.  There’s hunger.  Broken hearts.  Unemployment.  Screaming at your kids after a bad day at work.  Cheating on your girlfriend.  Pollution.  Heretics.  Burning of heretics.  Promiscuity on TV.

He went on naming quite a few more problems.  Then:

Now ask yourself, “How many of these problems does government even claim to try to alleviate?”  No matter how statist your society is, there are probably ten problems the government ignores for every problem it tries to address.

And he concludes:

Why then do people support the interventions they do, while apathetically ignoring countless other forms of human suffering and degradation?  For the most part, people support the interventions they have because they have them.  It’s not about the severity or treatability of the problems.  It’s about conforming to our secular religion.  Our society says that poverty among American seniors would be a terrible problem.  So we have massive social programs to prevent it.  How do we know this “disaster” is especially pressing in a world so full of suffering?  We don’t.  We don’t even try to do a fair accounting.  Instead, we make stuff up, and shame anyone who subsequently furrows his brow.  Simple as that.


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