The news generally being doom and gloom, it is always refreshing to read a piece that looks at the other side: David Brooks on Why the U.S. Will Always Be Rich.

In fact, we won't necessarily always be rich. Richness is a result of laissez faire (you will note almost nothing in the piece about the government). We are rich because we had no government until 150 years after the founding. (Well, we had none to the first approximation, if we compare to the average sizes of government now.) By the time FDR et al created the welfare state, we were rich enough that even with that deadweight drag, we kept getting richer.

By now, the process of democratization feared by the founders (read the piece) is well under way. To someone like me, it presents a conundrum. On one hand, the government never shrinks. People say that's what the Republicans want, and maybe some do. But what Republicans do, given power, is simply to grow the government less fast than the Democrats might have. Government has not shrunk in absolute size since I don't know when. Probably a small reduction after WWII was the last. On the other hand, productivity keeps growing. Is it possible in the future that only 1% of the people will create enough wealth to keep the other 99% on the dole (or in government jobs)? And can we keep growing the economy even with only 1% doing anything productive? Given robotization and artificial intelligence, a future is imaginable with nobody working at all -- at least, nobody who is human.

But that's for the future. In the present, Americans still have retained much of the entrepreneurial attitudes and healthy, accepting attitudes towards wealth that were created by and reinforced this country's anarchic origins. Read Brook's piece and think on that.

No comments: