Conservative Policies Create Big Government

Two recent studies suggest that two of the favored tactics of contemporary conservatives actually result in larger government. Berkeley economists Romer and Romer argue that the “starve the beast” approach ultimately results in greater spending, and George Mason ‘s Matt Mitchell claims that government shutdowns do the same.

Somehow, though, I suspect ideology will triumph over evidence. If worst comes to worst, radical conservatives can just blame liberals for not responding “correctly” to conservative tactics.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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6 Responses to Conservative Policies Create Big Government

  1. Pinky says:

    “The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.”
    James Madison, Federalist # 10

  2. D. C. Sessions says:

    Echoing Cato from 2004. Although I’ll note that Cato goes to some effort to pretend that military spending is somehow an exception.

  3. James Hanley says:


    In the article you link to, I don’t see any effort to pretend that military spending is an exception.

  4. D. C. Sessions says:

    There were a cluster of Cato papers on “Starve the Beast” at the time, and the one I read that actually showed their work (regressions, for instance) did a bit of dancing on the military/non-military distinction that looked shaky to my admittedly non-expert eye.

  5. AMW says:

    Matt Mitchell claims that government shutdowns do the same.

    That’s what he claims, but the research he cites doesn’t say it’s the shutdowns that result in bigger government, but rather the rule that a shutdown will occur barring an agreement. Given that it’s the rule – not the action – that matters, whether or not the Tea Party actually shuts down the government is a moot point.

  6. James Hanley says:

    D.C.–O.K. I trust you enough that I can certainly accept that provisionally. And I’d almost certainly disagree with them, barring an unexpectedly persuasive argument.

    AMW–Good point, thank you. As an institutionalist I ought to have noticed that. I blame this damn viral infection that’s been gnawing at me for the past week. No way I could have made such an error if I was operating at normal capacity. (And if you buy that, I’ve got a bridge you might be interested in buying.)

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