Today, Thomas Sowell gives us some historical perspective on the relatively recent assumed government power of trying to help (not necessarily helping) the economy:
For the first 150 years of this country’s existence, the federal government felt no great need to “do something” when the economy turned down. Over that long span of time, the economic downturns were neither as deep nor as long lasting as they have been since the federal government decided that it had to “do something” in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, which set a new precedent.
One of the last of the “do nothing” presidents was Warren G. Harding. In 1921, under President Harding, unemployment hit 11.7 percent — higher than it has been under President Obama. Harding did nothing to get the economy stimulated.
Far from spending more money to try to “jump start” the economy, President Harding actually reduced government spending, as the tax revenues declined during the economic downturn.
This was not a matter of absent-mindedly neglecting the economy. President Harding deliberately rejected the urging of his own Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, to intervene.
The 11.7 percent unemployment rate in 1921 fell to 6.7 percent in 1922, and then to 2.4 percent in 1923. It is hard to think of any government intervention in the economy that produced such a sharp and swift reduction in unemployment as was produced by just staying out of the way and letting the economy rebound on its own.
Later, he explains why trying to help is not the same as actually helping and why jobs are not plentiful:
The endless proliferation of anti-business interventions by government, and the sight of more of the same coming over the horizon from Barack Obama’s appointees in the federal bureaucracies, creates the one thing that has long stifled economic activity in countries around the world — uncertainty about what the rules of the game are, and the unpredictability of how specifically those rules will continue to change in a hostile political environment.