Economic Ignorance – a Vicious Circle

The Incredible Bread Machine p. 57 – 59:

In 1795 James Madison commented on an interesting phenomenon which he described as “the old trick of turning every contingency into a resource for accumulating force in the government.” Madison knew what he was talking about.

Years ago the federal government undertook to subsidize cotton farmers. But then it was discovered that the persistently high price of American cotton was hurting cotton exports. So the government subsidized exporters. But then American mill owners pointed out that foreign mills were getting American cotton cheaper than American mills could get it. So now the American mills are being subsidized. And so the growers, the exporters, and the mills are now all indebted to the State for assistance. And what the State subsidizes, to an appreciable extent it controls. “The old trick is to turn every contingency . . . ”

The bureaucrat will force rates higher and then demand greater power in order to force them down again. Or, he will seek to “protect” the farmer and as a result generate a mountain of rotting surpluses; then he will demand still greater control over agriculture in order to cure the problem he himself has created. Or, he will regulate the railroads nearly into bankruptcy and then urge a program of government loans to “help” them. Or the State, through various pieces of labor legislation, will all but eliminate employer resistance to unending union demands. Then, when union power grows to ominous dimensions, labor disputes will be settled by presidential fiat rather than by free market bargaining. “Turn every contingency … “

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