No one can spend $1.5 billion of other people’s money responsibly

By Donald J. Boudreaux
Business & Media Institute
1/20/2009 10:52:07 AM

Editor, The Wall Street Journal

200 Liberty Street

New York, NY 10281

To the Editor:

You report that Barack Obama will call for “a new era of responsibility” (“Obama to Call for a New Era of Responsibility,” Jan. 20).

His actions belie his words. By seeking an extra $800 billion for “stimulus,” Mr. Obama will generate a typhoon of irresponsibility. Consider what Arnold Kling says at the blog EconLog: “How many people will have meaningful input in determining the overall allocation of the billion stimulus? 10? 20? It won’t be more than 1000. These people – let’s say that in the end 500 technocrats will play a meaningful role in writing the bill – will have unimaginable power. Remember that what they are doing is taking our money and deciding for us how to spend it. Presumably, that is because they are wiser at spending our money than we are at spending it ourselves.

“The arithmetic is mind-boggling. If 500 people have meaningful input, and the stimulus is almost $800 billion, then on average each person is responsible for taking more than $1.5 billion of our money and trying to spend it more wisely than we would spend it ourselves.”

Absolutely no one can spend $1.5 billion of other people’s money responsibly.


Donald J. Boudreaux

Don Boudreaux is the Chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University and a Business & Media Institute adviser.


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