Friday, January 25, 2008

More spending does not help the economy

The united States' president and congress are running scared of an economic recession, and are trying to redistribute wealth to encourage spending. They think that giving everyone, except the rich, artificial money will encourage spending, which will raise key "economic indicators" and help them win reelection.

Economists today discuss the economy in terms of consumer spending. Is that all we are - a machine of 300 million spenders stuck in an endless cycle of creating often things and consuming them? We heard the call for more spending after 9/11, when Bush called on Americans to go shopping as a civic duty to help the economy, as if buying something you don't need will benefit us. Those who call for more spending have a flawed view of the economy.

A healthy economy is characterized by voluntary productivity and free exchange. An economy that relies on everyone spending and buying more than they want or need is not a healthy economy. Efforts to prop it up by artificially encouraging spending just makes the economy more unbalanced. If we do buy things we don't really need, we are forced to work harder (making more useless things?) to earn more and support our spending. Advice to spend more is not making us more productive, it's just making us busier.

We need to stop obsessing with growth in corporate income, personal wages and the economy as a whole. An individual can be perfectly happy without an increase in income each year, especially if he would have to do more for that increase in income. In a free economy, growth will come with innovation and population growth, but it isn't something you can force from the top. With pressure from factors like high oil prices, economic activity may even shrink. This is normal and temporary. Let's not make it worse by calling for artificial spending.

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