Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stupid Ideas I Just Don't Get

In the United States, many politicians, mostly Republicans but some Democrats, lament "government spending", decrying it's "horrible" (yet, in their own rhetoric), unclear consequences. I used to think maybe it was just a U.S. phenomenon, but the anti-spending rhetoric of Geraldo Alckmin in Brazil has hit a chord here, too. Which leads me to the following:

Since when did governments spending money become a bad thing?

First, the notion that, regardless of WHAT the government is spending money on, the government shouldn't spend, is simply stupid. Such a line of thought ignores the variety of services on which governments spend, and treats the government instead simply like a bank where money is supposed to sit and grow without ever being used.

Secondly, it ignores HOW the government in question is spending. If the government is wasting money on weapons programs and military spending while ignoring social needs of its people (health, nutrition, medicine, famine, poverty, etc.), then spending can be justly criticized. But criticism of spending that, by means of international deals, investments, etc., increases a country's GDP, brings people out of poverty, leads them out of malnouishment, increases employment, literacy, etc., seems ignorant at best. Why is it bad that governments spend to help their citizens? Or, along another line - how do you pay for highways? For the postal service? For infrastructure? How do you offer cheap public university education to your citizens? How do you pay for the issuing of passports so your citizens can travel? It's not private money - it's government spending.

I have no idea where Americans or other people have gotten the idea in the last 40 or so years that spending is awful, but a blanket condemnation of spending without discussing HOW a government is spending is moronic. he state can and does provide services to its citizens, no matter how fucked up the state itself may be, and those services cost money. So can we please get rid of the idea that spending is bad, and instead focus on how we spend?