A Vicious Circle; An Unbalanced Budget, Inflation, And The Welfare State

Now this type of surplus is not confined to warlike concerns.  Once the possibility of an unbalanced budget is established, the precedent can be invoked to persuade politicians to carry on other wars: wars on illiteracy, on poverty, on ill health, on unemployment, on insecurity.  Where the profit motive does not prove efficacious, the state must intervene. … the increasing volume of transactions requires a larger money supply, and the central bank can be persuaded to meet the demand. … it appears to be less evident that a vicious circle of ever more demands for a larger money supply with no increase in real income is inflationary … In any case there has emerged in fact if not in name the welfare state. … Its mechanism is rather strikingly similar to that of the favorable balance of foreign trade. The debt once owed by colonies to richer countries now is replaced by the national debt. … now the long overdue basic expansion is doled out to one’s fellow countrymen under the haughty name of welfare. [CWL 15, 85-86]

The excellence of the exchange solution becomes even more evident when contrasted with the defects of a bureaucratic solution.  The bureaucrat … (gives the people) what he thinks is good for them, and he gives it in the measure he finds possible or convenient; nor can he do otherwise, for the brains of a bureaucrat are not equal to the task of thinking of everything; only the brains of all men together can even approximate to that. … when a limited liability company has served its day, it goes to bankruptcy court; but when bureaucrats take over power, they intend to stay. … when the pressure of terrorism is needed to oil the wheels of enterprise, then the immediate effect is either an explosion or else servile degeneracy. … the exchange solution is a dynamic equilibrium resting on the equilibria of markets. … every product of the exchange economy must mate through exchange with some other product, and the ratio in which the two mate is the exchange value.  The generality of this equilibrium makes it indifferent to endless complexity and endless change; for it stands on a level above all particular products and all particular modes of production.  While these multiply and vary indefinitely, the general equilibrium of the exchange process continues to answer with precision the complex question, Who, among millions of persons, does what, among millions of tasks, in return for which, among millions of rewards?  Nor is the dynamic solution unaccompanied by a continuous stimulus to better efforts and more delicate ingenuity.  For the uniformity of prices means that the least efficient of those actually producing will at least subsist, while every step above the minimum efficiency yields a proportionately greater return.[CWL 21, 34-35]

Also, read John F. Cogan’s article in the 1/3/2021 WSJ, “Entitlements Always Grow and Grow”.  Mr. Cogan is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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