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ANYTHING PEACEFUL

Deficits: The Latest Fashion in Paris and Athens

MAY 09, 2012 by NICHOLAS SNOW

With the recent elections in France and Greece, austerity has seemingly been rejected. Of late, many European countries have been pushing austerity measures, but now French and Greek voters appear to prefer increased government spending, more government jobs, and more inflation. This is a common path for governments thanks to the legacy of John Maynard Keynes: Deficits ceased being only for emergencies, such as war or natural disasters. They became the yellow-brick road to prosperity, the beguiling cure for our economic lows.

Perhaps the French and Greeks should have read James Buchanan and Richard Wagner’s important book, Democracy in Deficit: The Political Legacy of Lord Keynes. The free market is blamed for the ills created by democracy, and democracy often takes credit for the good free markets bring. So maybe the voters would not have listened anyway. France and Greece may be in for some harsh times in the long run As Milton Friedman explained in his January 2, 1984, Newsweek column, deficits are troubling and costly. H. L. Mencken may have had it right: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

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Around the world, people are struggling to throw off authoritarianism, with deeply mixed results. From Egypt to Venezuela, determined people build networks to overthrow their regimes, but as yet we have not learned to live without Leviathan. In this issue, Michael Malice and Gary Dudney discuss their glimpses inside totalitarian regimes, while Sarah Skwire and Michael Nolan look at how totalitarian regimes grind down the individual--and how individuals fight back. Plus, Jeffrey Tucker identifies a strain in libertarianism that, left unchecked, could reduce even our vibrant movement to something that is analogous to the grim aesthetic of architectural brutalism. The struggle for our lives and freedom is a struggle for beauty; it begins inside each of us.
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