Saturday, March 06, 2010

Dead economists supporting the stimulus?

Berkeley economist Brad DeLong thinks he is being clever:

(click to enlarge)

Both Say and Bastiat are famed economic thinkers, and Bastiat is widely cited by libertarians for some of his insights (particularly the parable of the broken window). So would both of these guys, as DeLong contends, have supported the stimulus package? Not likely.

Bastiat and Say were both basically arguing that the government should provide some assistance to those who can't find work during downturns. We already have this, however, through unemployment insurance. That workers should be employed in public works is probably because Bastiat couldn't conceive of the government simply giving checks to people without anything in return.

Neither one suggests such measures are the key to economic revitalization and promoting a return to growth, the ostensible goals of the ARRA. Indeed, Bastiat makes sure to add that "As a permanent, general, systematic measure, [public sector employment] is nothing but a ruinous hoax..."

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