Great Question: The Scarcity of Social Democratic Triumphalism
By Bryan Caplan
Don Boudreaux raises a deep question I’ve often asked myself:
But if I were a pro-regulation and high-tax kinda guy, why would I dispute the claim that America’s economy has performed remarkably well for everyone even since 1973? Why would I not say “See, the government programs enacted from the New Deal forward are working!”…
In short, despite what some pundits mysteriously assert, America during the past twenty-five to thirty-five years has emphatically not been a laissez-faire society. Not even close. So why do so many persons on the political left see in the economic data of the past three decades a compelling case for even greater government control over our lives and pocketbooks? And why don’t more of these same persons on the left respond to those of us who advocate less government by pointing to the evidence of continued and widespread growth in prosperity by saying proudly “See! We’re right and you’re wrong: government intervention does work well!”
When I asked my favorite Democrat in the world this question (and scrupulously tried to avoid leading the witness), he cloned my own view: Facts notwithstanding, people believe that “the System” in the U.S. and Europe is capitalism. Good results reflect well on the System; bad results reflect badly on the System.
But why is the System in even France or Sweden “capitalism” instead of “Social Democracy”? My favorite Democrat could only second my lame response: It’s illogical, but that’s how people see it. Until you’ve got something close to full-blown Communism, the System is capitalism, and to promote more government, you’ve got to argue that the System isn’t working.