Are libertarians really this ignorant

[Hooray– I found my missing post in the WordPress trash.  Here it is]

So, a fairly prominent libertarian I am FB friends with posted this on Facebook yesterday along with significant praise for this article in Reason.  Suffice it to say, I was not impressed.  Basic gist– look how much the media loved liberal Paul Wellstone when he died and compare that to how mean they are to poor Tea Party types.  Hello false equivalancey!  Please, as if Wellstone were as far from the center to the left as our current Tea Party nuts are to the right.

But what really got me was that said libertarian friend– an actual PS professor– so strongly endorsed an article that contained this bit:

At this point it might be useful to clarify precisely what the dispute concerns. The question is not whether the federal government should grow. As Reason‘s Nick Gillespie pointed out a few days ago, nearly nobody in Washington has actually proposed shrinking the leviathan. To the contrary, the dispute is whether to raise federal spending from the current $3.8 trillion to $4.7 trillion over the next decade (the Paul Ryan plan)—or to $5.7 trillion (the Obama plan).
Bear in mind that those increases would come on top of one of the fastest expansions of federal spending in U.S. history. When President Obama took office, the budget stood at $2.9 trillion. Two. Point. Nine.

Spending has risen 30 percent in the past three years. It is quite a feat to grow federal spending faster than the Bush administration: Under Bush, domestic discretionary spending rose faster than at any time since the Lyndon Johnson administration.

If Bush floored the accelerator, then Obama lit the afterburners.

Oh, please.  Sure, this should be able to fool your typical not-as-smart-as-he-thinks reader of Reason, but the Poli Sci prof should know better.  First of all, spending is going to grow just because the nation is growing even if government doesn’t really grow at all.  Secondly, a huge portion of this is the rise in health care costs, which Democrats, not Republicans, have actually tried to do something meaningful about.  I would hardly call the government spending 6% more on Medicare in a year due to a 6% increase in medical inflation a huge growth in government.  It’s just the same things, i.e., statins, open heart surgery, and diabetes care, etc., getting more expensive.  Sure, the scope and size of government are related to the amount of money spent, but this is really a poor proxy.  Lastly, a lot of this spending is not a genuinely larger government, but again, short-term spending in response to the tough economy.  Do libertarians truly believe that a doubling of outlays for unemployment benefits in a time of high unemployment actually means the government has gotten “bigger” in any meaningful sense?  Finally, Krugman, recently had a blog post nicely explaining the story of spending vs. GDP.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: