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Frédéric Bastiat, in the Bastiat Proudhon Debate on Interest, [1849-1850]
One of the most persistent causes of lousy policy decisions at all levels of government is that politicians and voters alike tend to focus on policy goals without paying nearly enough attention to policy effectiveness.
So, for example, a proposal to spend more public money on education is widely regarded as a pro-education proposal, whereas a proposal to spend less public money is widely regarded as anti-education. Nearly everyone is pro-education, so politicians who want to spend less on it generally lose, and that has two important consequences. First, education spending increases steadily. And second, if the increased spending fails to improve the schools, future candidates who hope to win will argue not that the spending increases were misguided, but rather that we just haven’t spent enough yet.
But eventually, if we increase spending substantially, year after year for many years, shouldn’t we expect to see some measurable improvement in educational outcomes? And if we don’t see any measurable improvement, isn’t that something that someone ought to tell the voters? Read the rest of this entry »