Big Gov’t Lovers Lack Key Intellectual Capability: Logic


By: Warner Todd Huston

The first two paragraphs of a recent Salon Magazine piece by Michael Lind on Obama’s plans for America’s future are striking for the utter lack of any relationship whatsoever between them.

Take a look at the aforementioned graphs:

Barack Obama is a man with a plan. On Dec. 6, the president-elect announced major parts of his plan to revitalize the American economy. He listed four priorities: “a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient”; “the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s”; “the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen”; and a program to “renew our information highway” by increasing broadband adoption, by schools and hospitals in particular.

Obama’s priorities make excellent sense. After emergency measures to stabilize the economy, public investment aimed at accelerating U.S. economic growth should be domestic reform priority No. 1. That’s because raising the rate of economic growth is the reform that makes all subsequent reforms easier. Accelerating the long-term growth of the productive economy will get us out of the recession faster, refill depleted federal, state and local government funding for public services sooner, and permit larger investments to be made with the same or lower tax rates in areas of needed reform like social insurance, energy and education. And the more rapidly the economy grows, the more quickly the colossal but necessary deficits the U.S. is now running up will melt away.

After reading these two opening sections, one must realize that there is little reason to read the rest of Lind’s piece because of the fallacy that his first paragraph has anything whatever to do with the second. The logic connecting the two is so strikingly lacking that one might suspect that these two paragraphs were randomly snipped from completely different articles by two different writers.

Let’s review what Lind says are Obama’s priorities in the first paragraph in a simple bulleted list.

  • a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient
  • the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s
  • the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen
  • a program to renew our information highway

And what does Lind say of this list? He says it “makes excellent sense.” He says that these program ideas are “aimed at accelerating U.S. economic growth” because that policy “should be domestic reform priority No. 1.” Then he praises Obama because he is interested in “raising the rate of economic growth” and that this is the “reform that makes all subsequent reforms easier.”

And the logical disconnect? Obama’s pie-in-the-sky ideas that Lind lays out in paragraph one have little to do with “accelerating U.S. economic growth” as Lind claims they do in paragraph two. The plans Obama offered just don’t have any bearing on economic growth in anything but the most tangential way.

Let’s take them one at a time.

  • a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient

Sure, after this “massive effort” the government might find that it saves several cents a day on its electric bill. Sure that will add up to millions eventually. But would, as Lind lovingly believes, this little program accelerate U.S. economic growth? Hardly.

  • the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s

Sounds nice. But, what does it even mean? It’s wonderfully vague. Still, even if we equate it to the national highway system that was built in the 50s, such an effort might not bear fruit for decades to come. Further, when the system of national highways was built there was nothing at all comparable to it and its creation was a major addition to our lives. What new project could be so amazingly transformational? And, even if there was such an idea that could approximate that sort of transformation, Obama didn’t offer it as the central idea in his “plan.” And once again, this Obama pronouncement has little bearing on improving our economy in a time when Lind’s “emergency measures” were required.

  • the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen

So, new buildings equate to well-informed students? Lincoln learned from the back of a shovel, as the saying goes. This obvious big government trope is meaningless. Sure it will be good to have nice schools, but again, how does this have anything at all to do with our current economic crisis? Nothing, of course.

  • a program to renew our information highway

This one is an area that has economic import, but, it is not in the proper purview of government. The best thing government can do to spur the Internet is to stop over regulation and get out of the way of private business and the market place.

In the end, the most striking aspect of Lind’s two paragraphs is the utterly slavish belief in big government as the solution to all ills. Lind’s entire lack of logic even shoehorn’s “emergency” status onto actions that will obviously take decades to come to fruition not to mention the singular fact that Obama’s plan has a spurious connection to the economy to begin with.

The only thread that draws Lind’s two paragraphs together is the simple, near religious belief that big government is the cure all. So, since Obama is announcing giant, expensive, feels good programs, Lind assumes without any hesitation that it all serves to make us a better country which must, in his false logic, positively impact the economy.

The illogic boggles the mind.

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