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Jeffrey Sachs saves the world

By William Briggs - posted Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Says Jeffrey Sachs, economics professor at Columbia, "Economic theory indeed supports the view that high tax rates can actually spur, rather than hinder, work effort."

Sachs wants government to impose higher taxes, particularly on business. He also wants more regulations on the same. It is his claim that taking more money from business and giving it to government officials to do with it what they will, that increasing the rules that businesses must follow to exist, while simultaneously increasing the size and scope of the bureaucracy to oversee these regulations, that businesses will thrive more so than they do today.

The people must sacrifice, too. Any household making over $50,000, which is to say half of us, "can make do with a little less take-home pay." That take-home pay must become send-Washington pay, where at least some of it should be used to send abroad, given, Sachs says, our foreign aid policy is "stingy."


Sachs, incidentally, has made a name for himself by advocating that rich countries redistribute their wealth to poor countries, even those poor countries staffed by dictators. It's his theory that giving them free money improves the lot of all the citizens of these countries. In their new book, The Dictator's Handbook, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith agree in part: dumping money into the hands of dictators does improve the standard of living of the dictators-but it also increases the length of the rule.

Anyway, follow Sachs and not only will the economic sun begin to shine, chasing away the shadows, but increasing the restrictions on and decreasing the wallets of its people, Americans will, somehow, become more moral, more socially responsible, more mindful. More, that is, like Jeffrey Sachs.

Jeffrey Sachs, yes: he loves us. Because of that love, he says that is "deeply surprised and unnerved" that he must tell us, we lowly citizens, these ridiculously apparent truths. One imagines his heavy heart, the pen shaking in his hand, a tear poised, ever ready to fall, as he took on the deep burden of laying down the principles for achieving economic and social Bliss. No simple task!

Sachs acknowledges that a unilateral action by government to pick the pockets and chain the hands of business and citizens is not possible given our ancient system of government. That darn bicameral Congress, the friction that exists between the legislative and executive, guarantees gridlock. We are being held back from becoming just like Europe, that heaven of academics-places like the nearly bankrupt Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, etc.-because of our darned Constitution.

Solution? Change it. Combine the legislative and executive branches. Grease the wheels of government so that the party in charge of it can pass anything they like without opposition. Just like our Congress did when all Democrats in the House, Senate, and White House, and not one member of the opposition, passed the "You'll have to pass it to see what's in it" health care bill.

Wouldn't it be swell, asks Sachs, if we could have that kind of legislation all the time? Just think how big government could grow! Its halls will be a irresistible magnet, drawing those of Great Brain toward it, where these intelligent, Enlightened, disinterested, beneficent fellows will sit and ponder what is best for us.


This had better be the case, because the $8 to $12 trillion-that's trillion with a 't'-of new taxes Sachs would impose will cause an increase in the size of government not seen since that other great experiment in enforced socialism began a century ago.

An ordinary mind might consider that the torrent of money into government would cause it to grow fat, lazy, crony-istic, and corrupt, a place where Kafka would feel at home; in a word, Greece. Sachs agrees but has a solution, "Yes, the federal government is incompetent and corrupt-but we need more, not less, of it." How can you argue with that?

Yet consider the alternate view, provided by jurist Antonin Scalia and, incidentally, by those men who wrote and framed the Constitution (transcript from HotAir; listen here).

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This article was first published on William M Briggs.

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About the Author

William M Briggs is a statistical consultant and Adjunct Professor of Statistical Science at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

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