Borders outlines the ‘Epicycles of Government Failure’

An item in the latest edition of Max BordersIdeas Matter update outlines a common pattern for government actions that turn out poorly.

I’m going to sum up Steve Horwitz’s lesson in a tidy process I call The Epicycles of Government Failure*:

1. Pressure group or bureaucrat perceives some social problem. Calls it a “market failure.”

2. Justifies and deploys state power to solve said problem using government force and/or largesse.

3. Government force or largesse causes some secondary problem that is often worse than the problem it was intended to address.

4. Pressure group or bureacrat calls this secondary problem a “market failure.”

5. Justifies and deploys state power to solve the secondary problem using government force and/or largesse.

6. Government force or largesse used to solve the secondary problem causes some tertiary problem that is often worse than the problem it was intended to address.

7. Pressure group or bureaucrat calls this tertiary problem a “market failure.”

8. Repeat ad infinitum.

*Be sure to insert special interests into each level of this process because government interventions always create winners and losers who will lobby to keep the intervention intact.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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