Americans Are Not Convinced of Washington's Top Down Economics


Several recent polls have shown Americans are becoming increasingly skeptical of of Washington's economic planning capabilities. According to a recent Washington Post poll, 73% of Americans doubt Washington's ability to solve economic problems. In fact, these numbers have leapt from 52% last year and from 41% in 2002. It appears that the more the government has tried to fix the US economy the less confident Americans are that the government is capable of doing such things.

In general, when the government in Washington decides to solve economic problems, how much confidence do you have that the problem actually will be solved: A lot, some, just a little, or none at all?

Source: Washington Post Poll

Another example of this skepticism toward government economic planning comes from a recent Rasmussen poll finding that 71% of Americans believe the private sector is better than the government at determining technological potential.

Who is better at determining the long-term benefits and potential of new technologies, private sector companies and investors or government officials?

71% Private sector companies and investors

11% Government officials

17% Not sure

This suggests the public is not convinced that President Obama's "investment" spending will necessarily be properly directed to its most useful ends. For example, in the president's 2011 State of the Union address, he marshals the word "invest" or "investment" 13 times, with 8 specifically referencing government investment. It is important to remember that when government "invests" in the economy, it requires officials to make decisions about who gets funding. This presupposes that the government has the knowledge to know which technologies have the greatest potential and thus are worthy of investment. Instead of letting billions of individuals work through a marketplace to best allocate resources to the technologies with the greatest potential, this would instead rely on a small, centralized group of intellectuals deciding who gets what.

Also according to this Rasmussen poll the public is not convinced that when the government does "pick winners" to receive government funding, that the money will not be wasted. 64% believe it is likely that if a private company, which cannot find investors, gets funding from the government that the money will be wasted.

Sometimes a company cannot find investors for a new technology and they seek research funding from government. Suppose a private company cannot find investors but gets funding from the government. How likely is it that government funding will be wasted? 

30% Very likely

34% Somewhat likely

21% Not very likely

  4% Not at all likely

11% Not sure

It might be time to rethink the alluring sound of government "investment" and reevaluate the merits that government has the knowledge necessary to make these sorts of economic decisions.

NEXT: Nixon's Big Government Legacy

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The Indians found out that agricultural civilization is externally invasive. Now, as the consequences of civilization’s temporary advantages (much like fiat money’s) comes to an end, more and more people are finding out the other truth: civilization is internally repressive.

    And it’s always top-down in hierarchical civilization.

    So you’re singing the Main Street White Man’s Ghost Dance as the wealth flows into higher, righter, and tighter hands. It’s not going to end well.

    * * *

    the hopes and prays
    the better days
    the far aways
    forget it

    it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to
    it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it, did it?
    it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to
    it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it, did it?

    now you know
    this is what it feels like
    now you know
    this is what it feels like

    ~lyrics from
    “The Wretched”
    Nine Inch Nails

  2. Who the hell says “not at all likely”? Have they never been to a DMV?

  3. It’s going to take more than the federal government to fix this. It’s going to take all of us. (We’re doomed if that’s the case)

  4. fuck you!

  5. It seems the Administration is ill-advised in many matters, including economics. Many of this administration’s advisors have departed, exhausted from having saved the global economy.

    And not to slam all of Congress, but selection of members of committees instrumental in legislation, and where lots of the action is, doesn’t seem to be chosen based on knowledge or expertise of the investigated matters.

    The DMV branch has improved significantly, with appointments and online services (Daly City, CA). Many people at the DMV are there for completely avoidable reasons, built-in, onerous vehicle codes, or ignorance.

  6. I have so much faith in our government making the economy better i purchased Gold, Silver and Platium just in case.

  7. A unique discussion merits a comment. I think that you need to write more on this subject, it might not be a taboo issue however normally people are not enough to speak on such topics. to another. Many thanks

  8. It seems the Administration is ill-advised in many matters, including economics. Many of this administration’s advisors have departed, exhausted from having saved the global economy.

  9. But that idea gets a bum rap when it fails. I contend most, if not all, of those failures are due to lack of competition, not competition’s failure. It makes no sense to build parallel roadways, railroads or power lines. But competing truck companies, trains or power producers can deliver efficiently when under the threat of competition. So let us separate the competitive elements of an industry from the non-competitive, with no financial ties whatsoever between the two. Should the non-competitive be privately owned and publicly regulated or publicly owned? there is probably no 100% answer to that, but the non-competitive need regular review, for like telephony, technology will change the rules from time-to-time.- ????? 2017????? ????? ???????

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.