In public policy, it is impossible to say what the consequences will be.
Take a policy said to eradicate city rats. Its real purpose is to reward a large political donor who owns a pest control firm.
Often, policies with clear and obvious purposes end up
Most often, these outcomes are not exactly surprises. Look more closely and you will often find, hidden behind the promises… a pest control firm!
News reports, for example, tell us that U.S. arms dealers are about to get a $110 billion payday. President Trump announced a weapons deal with the Saudis – the biggest in history
Win-lose deals always reduce total human satisfaction. Win-lose deals – unless they are imposed by petty criminals or local bullies – require government insistence. Otherwise, no one would take the losing side.
So the more government there is… the more active, ambitious, and overbearing it is… the more win-lose deals subtract from the sum of human happiness.
A month ago, as many as a million of these disappointed people demonstrated against the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. It was the “Mother of All Protests,” they said. Inflation is running at about 700% a year. Last year, GDP plunged 19%. Food staples – beans, rice, bread – are disappearing. Families cross the border into Colombia to buy toilet paper. Hospitals have no medicine, no equipment, not even rubber gloves and disinfectants. Sometimes, they have no electricity. Deaths of premature babies have increased 10,000% in the last five years. How did a country make such a mess of itself?
The good luck happened in 1914 when the first oilfield was drilled. The money followed. By the 1950s, with a basically market-oriented government, Venezuela rose to become the world’s fourth-richest country in terms of GDP per capita.
Today, the country has the largest proven oil reserves in the world – 297 billion barrels of the stuff compared to 267 billion barrels in Saudi Arabia.
Key industries were nationalized. Price controls were put in place. Wealth was redistributed.
Win-lose deals can redistribute wealth but only to the extent win-win deals create it. Take away the win-win deals, and the wealth soon runs out… as it did in Cuba and the Soviet Union.
The few use every resource available to them to keep the hustle going, with special attention given to manipulating the gullible mob.
The typical citizen rarely has any idea of what is going on and doesn’t have much curiosity about it. As long as he has credit for a new pickup and a champion who promises to smite his enemies, the common man will go along with almost anything.
But the Venezuelan auto industry has been ruined. And there’s no credit available. So there are few new pickups on the streets, and much of the public has turned against the government.
Not surprisingly, the policies that destroyed Venezuela delighted U.S. economists and politicians – who were eager to impose win-lose deals of their own.
In 2007, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz praised the “positive policies” in health and education of the Chávez government.
And in 2011, Bernie Sanders wrote:
But he was right about what was going on in the U.S. It was on its way to becoming a banana republic.