The Corner

The Stimulus & The Somme

Arnold Kling, after watching Martin Feldstein and Joseph Stiglitz on Charlie Rose:

I was reminded of the Battle of the Somme, one of the worst policy blunders of all time. Having experienced nothing but failure using offensive tactics up to that point, the Allies decided that what they needed to try was….a really big offensive. Just as Feldstein and Stiglitz pay no attention to the on-the-ground the housing market, the British generals ignored the impact of machine guns on men advancing over open fields.

My guess is that in 1916, anyone who doubted his own ability to direct an enormous offensive involving hundreds of thousands of soldiers would never have made it to general. Similarly, today, anyone who doubts the ability of a handful of technocrats to sensibly allocate $800 billion would never make it into government or the mainstream media.

How many people will have meaningful input in determining the overall allocation of the billion stimulus? 10? 20? It won’t be more than 1000. These people–let’s say that in the end 500 technocrats will play a meaningful role in writing the bill–will have unimaginable power. Remember that what they are doing is taking our money and deciding for us how to spend it. Presumably, that is because they are wiser at spending our money than we are at spending it ourselves.

Read the whole thing.

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