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A big fat compliment


In the Wall Street Journal for June 11 were published several accolades to Ronald Reagan. One of them was from Milton Friedman, which he submitted in the form of a line graph (only an economist!). The graph mapped about 20 years in the rate of growth of government. The Reagan years were shaded. Those years before spiked up sharply; the shaded years show a downturn; the years after spike up sharply again.

This was a tribute, you understand.

The thing was, the rates highlighted by Friedman were all positive! That means that Milton Friedman's accolade of Reagan was that government grew more slowly, or, perhaps, that government grew at a rate of which he (Friedman) approved. The inescapable conclusion from that graph, however, is that at the end of the Reagan years, government was more powerful than it had been at the beginning of them. Not as powerful as it would have been if someone else had been in charge of the spending (say, Ludwig of Bavaria), but more powerful nonetheless.

There's a story of a little boy who has to dance with a fat girl at some social event. His mother reminds him that he must say something complimentary to the girl. He puts his mind to it, but in the end what comes out is, "Janey, you sweat less than any fat girl I know."

The only difference between what the pro-Reagan economists are saying and what that boy said is ... well, I guess I can't think of one.

June 18, 2004

© 2004 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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