The Corner

The Slow Road to Serfdom

About four months ago, while the stimulus bill was being debated, I did a pretty nerdy post about it that generated a lot of controversy. The key points were that the spending would very likely either: (i) come too late to do much more good if we had a normal length recession, or (ii) represent a significant shift in the structural budget that would move the U.S. a significant distance toward a European social-welfare state if we had something more like a decade-long slowdown. Under either scenario, I argued, this law would near-permanently lock in programs that have long been on the wish list of the left-wing of the Democratic party. I saw it as a huge ideological shift masquerading as emergency relief. I think events have, so far, vindicated this point of view.

Keith Hennessey, who was the senior White House economic adviser to Pres. George W. Bush, has a fascinating post that broadly confirms this view, and more importantly provides a view of the inside baseball that produced this outcome. He tends to see the Obama administration as having been taken by the Congress. For all I know, this may be true, but it’s not clear who did what to whom when.

Jim Manzi is CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), an applied artificial intelligence software company.

Recommended

The Latest