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"Bad news for partisans" was a common theme in his iconoclastic career. He didn't endear himself to conservatives by producing data showing that "Starve the Beast," the notion that tax cuts shrink government by depriving it of revenue, was "magical thinking" and there was no substitute for the hard work of cutting spending.
Nor did many in the GOP welcome his case against the Iraq War, made at a CATO event in December 2001, perhaps the first prominent public statement against that looming debacle. "An unnecessary war is an unjust war"—and one we would come to regret having fought, he argued.
In the pile of 70th birthday cards Niskanen received in 2001, was one from a blunt, non-libertarian economist, Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary and top Democratic adviser. It was addressed to "Bill Niskanen, the most honest man in D.C."
That's about right.
This is the part where you're supposed to say something to the effect that, "we won't see his like again." But I hope we do. America's future depends on others following the example Bill Niskanen set for us.
Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and author of The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power (Cato 2008). He is a columnist at the Washington Examiner, where a version of this article originally appeared. Click here to read it at that site.