REFLECTIONS

Posted on December 28, 2010

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FOOD SAFETY BILL ADDS TO DEFICIT

The passing of a new food safety bill to monitor and inspect the growing of food in this country will require the hiring of 17,800 new FDA inspectors. Wow. New jobs for us, and our deficit grows.

Of course, the new laws will make growing food in this country by independent farmers more expensive and complicated, and that expense will be passed on to the consumers.

Sure, we will have better control of our food supply, but we have laws on the books that need to be enforced. And this new bill doesn’t deal with food coming in from other countries.

I like this case because it illustrates the fundamental conundrum facing the U.S. and all other advanced democracies: the conflict between the public’s demand for social services and the reluctance to pay for them.

Conservatives  point out that this new bill will create thousands of bureaucratic jobs, at high cost, expanding the role of government while yielding a questionable benefit.  Progressives counter that the public wants our government to do whatever it takes to make  sure our food is safe. Both sides have legitimate points of view.

But, most Americans will likely agree that we shouldn’t raise taxes to fund these new costs. When pressed for a proposal to pay for them, out come the usual lame ideas: “Cut the fraud and waste,” “Cut spending on the X program” (where “A” is a program that doesn’t affect then responder personally.)

This is a good example what’s called “Wagner’s Law,” in which advanced democracies always seek to expand the number and extent of social programs, but need to tax the citizens to pay for them. In the U.S. we’re struggling because we don’t want to obey Wagner’s Law. We want war and social programs, but we’re lowering taxes. This won’t work, and it’s a key reason we’re in such trouble.

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