Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What is a public good?

This is a basic economic question that warrants discussion. It's subjective and even people within the same party might disagree. Will Wilkinson points out that this crisis would have been a wonderful opportunity to have a substantive debate about what should determine spending on public works, but for the sake of expediency we're skipping that step. Expediency? When most of these programs won't go online until 2010?!

Unlike some libertarians, I do think government has a legitimate role to play in a lot of society. I don't want to just outsource everything to the private sector (especially if privatization really means playing favorites amongst a few elite government contracting firms). According to the Constitution, Congress can make laws to provide for the general welfare. The problem is in the definition of general welfare. I think that there's a case for the federal government to invest in basic infrastructure especially when it promotes interstate commerce (i.e. waterways and highways). The federal government also needs to make sure we're safe. I also think that the government should subsidize (but not necessarily run) schools, libraries, and other educational institutions like museums. The point is - all of this should be up for discussion. If only there was a reputable, high-profile Republican who could frame the debate!

No comments: