Advancing a Free Society

Costs of the New Government Activism

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In “Activism,” a paper soon to be published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Alan Greenspan delves into the consequences of the recent surge of what he describes as “government activism, as represented by the 2009 US$814 billion programme of fiscal stimulus, housing and motor vehicle subsidies and innumerable regulatory interventions.” Of course, this recent period of extraordinary government interventions has been commented on before. Gillian Tett in a Financial Times article called it the Ad Hoc Age. I called it the Great Deviation because it represents a major deviation from less interventionist or rules-based policies in the 1980s and 1990s. Noting that the current surge is one turn in a longer term cycle, Amity Shlaes argues in a Bloomberg column that we should speed up the cycle and get back to less intervention sooner.

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(photo credit: Jessica Mulley)