Economics

Mistakes Were Made…and Fixed

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retro TV

Everyone loves to complain about the accelerated pace of modern life. Remember the good old days, they say, when life was leisurely, commerce was more genteel, and everyone watched the same television and read the same newspaper?

Lest we get too nostalgic, keep in mind the upside of a sped-up world:

President Bush put steel tariffs in place in March 2002. Less than two years later, in December 2003, he rescinded them. This is something most politicians don't do. But because the tariffs caused such a sharp rise in the price of steel, small and mid-size businesses complained loudly. The unintended consequences became visible to most American's very quickly.

Remember the bad old days?

The unintended consequences of the New Deal took too long to show up in the economy. As a result, by the time the pain was publicized, the connection to misguided government policy could not be made. Today, in the midst of Internet Time, this is no longer a problem. So, despite protestations from staff at the White House, most people understand that food riots in foreign lands and higher prices at U.S. grocery stores are linked to ethanol subsidies in the U.S., which have sent shock waves through the global system.

When we are bombarded with tons of up to-to-the-minute info from all sides, "Policy mistakes will be ferreted out very quickly. As a result, any politician who attempts to change things will be blamed for the unintended consequences right away."

Related: Virginia Postrel on the paradox of choice