Free Markets

Should the Federal Government Assume a Larger Role in Managing the Economy? A Soho Forum Debate

American Compass Executive Director Oren Cass vs. the Cato Institute's Scott Lincicome on whether the U.S. should increase its intervention in the manufacturing industry.


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Oren Cass, who is the former chief policy advisor to Mitt Romney and the founder and executive director of the think tank American Compass, believes that the U.S. government should intervene more aggressively in the manufacturing industry.

Cass participated in a recent Soho Forum virtual debate, held on January 13, 2021, arguing in favor of the proposition:

"To promote prosperity among all income groups, the U.S. government should adopt an industrial policy."

Arguing against Cass: Scott Lincicome, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He says that, in the real world, government interference has only hurt manufacturing. The problem with the economic nationalism favored by Cass is that it insulates companies from the discipline of profit and loss. In a free market, businesses learn from their mistakes. When the government is involved, they react by growing bigger as a way to cover for their failures.

It was an Oxford-style debate, and Lincicome prevailed by convincing 14.56 percent of the audience to switch to his side.

The Soho Forum, which receives fiscal sponsorship from the Reason Foundation, is a monthly debate series typically held at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village, but which has gone remote during the pandemic.

Narrated by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Regan Taylor and John Osterhoudt.

Photo: Richard Graulich/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Collision Conf/Flickr/Creative Commons; SMG/ZUMA Press/Newscom 

NEXT: How the U.S. Covered Up the Murder of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

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  1. “Should the Federal Government Assume a Larger Role in Managing the Economy?”

    Fuck no.

    1. You got banned White Knight. Go away like Reason asked you to.

    2. Sorry, bigot. When there are racial discrepancies in the “free” market, that is a sign of systemic racism and the federal government has a mandate to put their thumb on the scales until racial equity is achieved. #ByeDon2021

    3. *No, but Biden pinkie swears not to grow government based on no comment he has ever made so I will support him over the guy with mean tweets.

      Fixed it for you.

  2. I wonder how many in the audience think the government does little or nothing to manage the economy now?

    1. Are we like Soviet Russia where the economy manages the government.

  3. No, since our government can’t even government since it is outsourcing important roles like writing legislation and regulations to lobbyists, propaganda and censorship to media, and persecution of the disfavored to antifa.

  4. “To promote prosperity among all income groups, the U.S. government should adopt an industrial policy.”

    Yes, indeed it should. If it promotes prosperity among all income groups, why would you be against it? We can all be rich!

    The only niggling little problem I have with this idea is this: How do you know that a given industrial policy will indeed promote prosperity among all income groups or that it will promote prosperity among all income groups as well or better than any given alternative industrial policy? Who has the God-like power to forsee what will come?

    Here’s an idea – you can propose any industrial policy you want and we’ll implement it but if it doesn’t work out the way you said it would, you get beaten to death. You wanna go for that?

    1. “How do you know that a given industrial policy will indeed promote prosperity among all income groups”
      <strike:Top Men!“Top People!”

      1. “Top People” is spiciest. “Top Entities!”

    2. “you get beaten to death. You wanna go for that?”…. lol… Well said.

      No one should have to look any further than our healthcare industry wrapped up in “industrial policy” to have an answer to that question.

      DOES the USA healthcare crisis ring a bell????

    3. “How do you know that a given industrial policy will indeed promote prosperity among all income groups or that it will promote prosperity among all income groups as well or better than any given alternative industrial policy? ”

      You don’t, of course. It’s a risk, and there’s no guarantee that any policy is going to be successful. That’s where government comes in. It’s not as risk averse as the private sector. It’s easier to risk other people’s money than one’s own.

      1. That’s where government comes in.
        It’s easier to risk other people’s money than one’s own.

        The Power to Steal…. Well Said +10000000

        1. It’s a two edged sword. With the power to steal comes the power to build things the private sector deems too risky. Touch screen technology, for an example.

  5. What stops them from beating all the Kulaks to death before they get a chance to beat the overseer to death?

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  7. I’ll be comfortable with the government managing the economy after they can manage the criminal justice system into something other than a crime against humanity.

  8. “Should the government …?”


    Unless it’s granting me freedoms they took away, it’s always no. Fuck off, let us live our lives. We know better what we want out of life and how best to spend our time, money, and energy. Pearl clutching busybodies do not, but they have plenty of ideas and that smug sense of superiority.

    1. Government doesn’t grant freedoms it simply stops violating them.

  9. Should ain’t got nothing to do with it.

    This is what you shilled for, assholes.

  10. Bwuhahaha! If you’ve ever watched the fedgov “manage” anything you know the answer to that question. It’s like watching a monkey trying to fuck a football.

  11. I didn’t actually listen. I’m assuming the 6 Reason staff that voted for Biden are on the “Yes” side of the argument?

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  12. Yes. It’s important for government to re-allocate money to people who are better at setting it on fire.

  13. This is considered a question by anyone (other than WK) who claims to be libertarian?
    Reason, you got $1 last year so you know I didn’t forget you.

  14. One factor in how much the federal government plays a role in managing the economy is just how educated and intelligent the federal leaders are in rational economic theory theory and how much they grasp actual facts.

    So in this case, there is no doubt about it. They should play ZERO role.

  15. Updating Regan’s words to reflect 2021’s reality: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from Big Business, and I’m here to help.'”

  16. The Federal Government is already about 35% of the economy, and it is riven with waste, fraud, and abuse. Putting government into the stream of business and jobs is always a very bad idea. Government by it’s size, redundancy, and feudalism is grossly incompetent. We have enough of problematic governance and adding more is less than wise. It’s stupid. Government is, much more often than not, itself the problem that needs to be fixed, and almost never the solution.

  17. Well if govt was an investment we wouldn’t be running deficits would we? Do you think the govt can make the tough decisions or would “jobs” be primary. Think the NASA SLS rocket versus SpaceX Starship…end of debate. What we do need is true free trade and that demands besides the usual no subsidizes, no tariffs AND a return to some monetary system which can’t be manipulated that much by govt. Floating rates didn’t work (sorry Friedman)..but some mechanism that govt can’t influence much to ensure one side doesn’t play games…that is the problem and I don’t see govt ever fixing that…its power they need to keep for their existence even if it kills your manufacturing (deficit spending by govt demands cheap goods from China…we have to offshore our inflation/money printing and get someone to buy the debt)

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