Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Debate Reveals Problem of Parasite Economy

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Debate Reveals Problem of Parasite Economy

Article excerpt

Viewed as a business, government doesn't deliver the goods very efficiently or cost effectively, but that doesn't seem to matter to customers. They've been asking for more.

As a result, government grows in spite of its well-known deficiencies, whereas a business would be down the tubes and soon forgotten, replaced by a younger, enterprising, more responsive operation.

It provokes questions:

Why do Americans, or at least their representatives, tend to ask more from government? And why, at the very same time, do so many people complain about high taxes, the inevitable result of more government?

The quest for benefits isn't as obvious as it might appear. Welfare costs are visible, dramatic, easily criticized and only a fraction of the problem; less visible are the special legislative favors won by special-interest groups.

Who are the special interests? Practically every trade, craft, profession, industry, association, institution, age group. Every person and group that seeks special treatment by law, mandate, taxes, regulation, subsidy. . .

Collectively they are the "parasite economy," said Jonathan Rauch, author of "Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government," published by Times Books.

Rauch said the web they spin tangles and frustrates the economy. In transferring a special share to themselves and away from productive investment they may cost the economy 5 percent to 12 percent of gross domestic product.

If this range of estimates is correct, he said, "then by hunting for redistributive goodies Americans make themselves about 5 percent to 12 percent poorer than they otherwise would be."

There's another way of viewing that might hit closer to home. In an essay for the Cato Institute, a think tank, Rauch describes an economic change that began about two decades ago and which has persisted since then. …

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