Blargh Blog

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The visible hand is in your pocket

For the most part, people should be able to manage their money how they wish. It's their money, so they can decide what to spend it on or invest it in, whether to borrow more, whether they want to give some of it away, and so on.

Of course, there are exceptions. If a person's business venture turns into massive debt, or if he does not have enough money to eat, he gets some financial assistance. And most everyone has to give money to the government, which provides an enormous number of services, making our country and our food and our streets safer, our children better educated, and our old people healthier, among other things.

So, in general, the government needs to collect enough money to do all of the things that it does, but it should do so in a way that's as fair and unobtrusive as possible. For instance, it can go easy on collecting when we're hard up for cash, but then hit us up for more when we have some extra dough sitting around. That's called countercyclical fiscal policy.

But lately, the government has decided to toss fairness and unobtrusiveness to the wind and get its grubby little hands all mixed up in people's finances. The US government has decided to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to distribute among its citizens as "tax breaks". Thank you very much, government, but I'd rather take out my own loans on my own terms, rather than having these loans forced upon me and my fellow citizens, on terms that haven't even been made clear. When are we going to have to pay back all this money? And what will the bill come to?

What's worse, the government seems to want to turn this "loans for everybody" program into some sort of centrally-planned redistribution. The people who are going to have to pay most of the loans back are going to be different people from the ones who are getting most of the money. This isn't strategically-targeted redistribution, either, like it is when they take a little extra from people who have a little extra sitting around and use it to make sure that everybody eats and that people whose jobs have ended can still get medical care for the rest of their years. If it's targeted at anyone, it's giving extra cash to people who are already making quite a bit of it, especially if their money is coming from something other than their job. It's almost as if they were orchestrating this strange sort of redistribution just to show that they could.

So, government, stop fooling around with people's money, giving people unrequested loans and asking others to pay them back on terms-to-be-named-later, and start giving people more freedom to make their own financial decisions. You focus on your own finances, and we'll focus on ours.


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