D.C. Cab


New at Reason: "[T]his government never of itself furthered any enterprise," says Hank Thoreau, "but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way."

So why do we care what the candidates talk about in the debates? The real mojo never comes from the campaign. Jesse Walker cites chapter and verse.


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  1. I thought the government DID settle the West, what with the real estate gifts to railroads, 160 acres in the valley, huge dam projects, and all that. Except for Salt Lake City, the pacific northwest, and the SF area, massive federal programs essentially created migration west of the Missouri River.

  2. So, American contract law never provided a stable economic where contracts could be made so as to facilitate commercial transactions? 🙂

  3. I feel obligated to post in this thread, since the originator of my pseudonym is quoted. But I really have nothing to add except to I agree with Merovingian’s point in this thread: Government can provide stability and the rule of law, which are essential for progress. But beyond that, it’s best to keep the hands off the market.

    Oh, it’s not entirely clear why my namesake was quoted for discussion of the article. The main point of the article was that candidates break their promises anyway.

  4. Steve Dooley’s on to something. I don’t think Jesse’s original article supports Tim’s spin on it at all. The article itself brings into question the predictability and accountability of government actions; but still, it bears out the importance of government as a force in our society.

    Only in a heavily centralized, corporate economy with a massive state sector (not to mention an M-I complex tying big business, the government, and R&D together organizationally), would something like DARPA have been possible. And ditto for the very existence of such a position as chief planner at the FHA.

    The lesson is that the state plays a central role in our economic system; it just does so in ways that the ostensible leaders of the state cannot fully predict or control.

  5. You, youuuuu don’t know what yer, yer talkin ’bout Steve, sir. You ain’t never said something like that that made much sense before or nothin’ … what on account of yer wives, wi … wife an all. No, no, no.

  6. Just the other day I was directing Bobbie’s attention to this article. It includes more historical details, like this: “After producing [The Homes Association Handbook], Hanke returned to the FHA where he continued to promote “the new land-use intensity as applied to CAs”.

    Would he have been re-hired if he didn’t have supporters? Wouldn’t some of those supporters have included people higher up, each of those with supporters higher up, until you reach the top?

    It’s true that to a certain extent the bureaucracy keeps humming independent from the Prez. And, the Prez can’t know everything that’s going on or everyone who’s hired. But, when someone is about to be hired or fired or a decision is about to be made, I’m sure that that will work its way up the food chain. If it’s something the Prez can’t prevent, then as history shows he will take actions to counteract it. Ain’t that right, Bobbie?

  7. “thoreau” was made up by Phil Hendrie?

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