Government vs. Creativity

From this week’s thoughtful missive from John Mauldin.  It’s about the future, and rate of change, and the predicaments our governments world wide have gotten us into (meaning, the debt and money printing).

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that we’re in a race between how much wealth and value and improvement in lifestyles human ingenuity can create versus how much destruction of wealth and lifestyles governments can destroy.

You go, John.  I think he is non-partisan in his analysis here, or maybe anti-partisan.  That is to say, he is not bringing an ideological position to this fight.  It’s not a D vs. R thing.

He also discusses his view of the future, which is that things will be changing at an ever accelerating pace.  He then offers up this example.  I have personally been a 3D printing skeptic, having used very early versions:

In China they are literally 3D printing 3000-square-feet houses in a day! One company is planning to 3D print a car with 20 moving parts this fall, using advanced materials much stronger than steel and aluminum.

OK, point taken.

This accelerated pace of change will cause good but also harm:

A society cannot reap the rewards of creative destruction without accepting that some individuals might be worse off, not just in the short term, but perhaps forever.

At the beginning of the article he talks about how the governments of the world have made promises they can’t keep (entitlements).  This is a fact.  However, these displaced people are going to need help.

Enter Laura Tyson, via Project Syndicate.  This is really a half-thought-out piece of work.  She starts out with this:

The American public’s attitude toward government, especially toward the federal government, recalls a classic scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.”

“What have they ever given us in return?” fulminates John Cleese, playing a Judean revolutionary. “The aqueduct,” concedes a sheepish co-conspirator. “And sanitation,” says a second, as others pipe up with more examples.

“All right,” Cleese erupts in exasperation. “But apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

The scene brilliantly captures America’s cantankerous and contradictory zeitgeist. On one hand, public trust in government is at an all-time low. On the other hand, Americans are deeply frustrated with gaping holes in health care, education, equality of opportunity, infrastructure, and environmental protection – goods and services traditionally provided by government.

As if the interstate system built decades ago is a reason for us to trust the insanity in Washington today.  But she prefers to focus on the positive, not the negative:

…blanket distrust in government, framed by glaring examples of boondoggles and fueled by ideology, too often focuses on the wrong question: How big should government be? The right question is how to develop innovative and efficient government programs to provide public goods and services that neither the marketplace nor the nonprofit sector can deliver on its own.

Then she gives us this load of crap:

…the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top Fund, which offered $4 billion in grants to states that developed successful educational reforms, spurred innovations that hold promise for school systems across the country.
And she conveniently leaves out how NCLB is still in place, with Common Core being added on!  Sometimes how big government is, really is the problem!  By the way, $4B?  The Department of Education ALONE has a budget of $312B. ( If you click that link to their website, they have a synopsis of exactly how they got so big.  They don’t have any charts showing their budget vs. America’s world ranking in educational achievements over time, of course, or any information on how they root out and eliminate their least effective programs, or how they determine what their regulatory load is on any person or organization.  They do talk a lot about all the new stuff they are adding on.)
Then Tyson adds insult to injury, citing how philanthropy is helping out, too:
The Gates Foundation may devise breakthrough innovations for public schools; but, even with its billions of dollars, it lacks the resources to revitalize education at the national or even the state level. As former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently observed, philanthropists should test innovative policy ideas and then rely on government money to implement them widely.
So, the rich can tell us what to do, but really, we should have to pay for what it is they want for us.  This is the very worst of what is wrong with government, and how government is stifling creativity.  And how inequality actually does hurt us.  That quote from Bloomberg might just make a believer out of me.
I hope John Mauldin is correct about the pace of change being able to overcome the pace of government induced sclerosis.  And I include in this (as, I think, would Mauldin) both the regulations, like Common Core, that make innovation harder, but also the crony capitalism that stifles the entrepreneur (this can be found in regulations sometimes too, but also in other ways).
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