Libertarians should Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Multiplier

(Warning: This Post is Snarky and Juvenile)

Ah, the Keynesian Multiplier.  It’s magical.  It says that government jelly beans are better than anybody else’s jelly beans, and that if your GDP unexpectedly grew more than you thought it did, that was clearly because the government’s jellybeans were awesomer.

Shut up, that’s totally a word. 

Leave aside the fact that both major parties are completely full of shit when it comes to taxes and the economy, including all those supposed “Tea Party candidates who talk small government like it’s a phone-sex job on campaign, only to govern like Republicrats once they’re elected.”  Of course, this disappoints Republicans, but that won’t keep them from getting played for chumps again in 2016 while begging for libertarians to swallow the kool-aid.

But let’s not argue Keynes vs Hayek here.  That’s old.  Nobody listens except people who actually read the books and follow the arguments.  And if liberals and conservatives did that, they wouldn’t be liberals and conservatives.

Let’s try a different argument instead:  Yes, I agree, there’s a multiplier.  How much is it?

After all, the whole point to “the multiplier” is that it’s not a constant.  It’s a variable.  It varies

  1. At different times
  2. In different places
  3. For different programs

So when the President offers to “invest in the future” (read: “fulfill my campaign pledge to be the tax and spend liberal that liberals voted for”), rather than getting all upset and trying to argue with somebody who doesn’t understand the very first lesson of economics, we can simply say “how good an investment is that?”

  • Medicare?  That’s a pretty crap investment.  It’s riddled with fraud, about to be bankrupt, and unable to make payments when it has a negative balance.  By 2016, barring emergency changes, Medicare’s toast except as an accounting gimmick and failed Ponzi scheme.
  • Education?  That perennial chestnut wears thin.  If throwing money at education (read:  cuts in faculty numbers accompanied by increases to cushy administrative positions) worked, California would have the best schools in the country.  As opposed to, say, being disaster areas salvaged only by affluent coastal facilities.
  • More cops?  Well, sure, so long as they’re not throwing people in prison for life for smoking a joint, or gunning people down at random or beating the shit out of citizens  just because they can.
  • X,Y, or Z?  Well, we need some things.  If they don’t really bring a return (Multiplier > 1), then they’re not investments: they’re costs.  And libertarians should describe them as such, and talk about ways to greatly streamline and improve them.  People understand efficiency.

Taking the Republicrat media head-on is a fool’s game.  But if you present the actual data underpinning many of the assumptions, you can hamstring the beast and win the most fundamental argument of all:  convincing the people with whom you’re talking that we should be judging spending based not simply on party bromides, but on the fundamental real-life questions:

  1. “Does it Work?”
  2. “Is it worth the cost?”

Start with point 1, move to point 2 not in the abstract, but, per Bastiat and Mister Brokenwindowman, in contrast to some other good the money can be spent on.  If you’re talking to a Republican, contrast with Red programs.  A Democrat, with other Blue Programs.  If they decide against #2, THEN we can start discussing “well, if that program’s not a good way to do it, what would a better choice look like?”

You won’t win any friends among the Blue Team Zombie Voter Armies, or the Red-State Moron Crack Suicide Squads, but that’s besides the point.  Those people are worshipping their political ideology, not actually discussing real-world choices.  What  doing this does is give you a way to discuss spending with people who get all their news from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh (or NPR and Ezra Klein) and who are ready to debate because they think of themselves as well-informed voters.  They’re reachable.  But only if they feel like you’ve come onto their ideological turf to talk.  We can bring up the Fed and Fiat Money later, once they’ve decided there’s something to their worldview past what they’re getting from their Media Tit of Choice.

No Ricardian Equivalences were harmed in the making of this blog post (mostly because the entire theory is horseshit, and proven as such every single time a state raises taxes).

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