Tackling the ‘otherwise people will die’ argument

Michael Tanner uses his latest National Review Online column to debunk a common theme in the argument for big government.

It has become the go-to policy argument for many liberals and the media: People will die. Repeal Obamacare . . . and people will die. Cut any social-welfare program by so much as $1 . . . and people will die. Reform unsustainable entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, and, you guessed it, people will die.

While in some cases this argument is debatable and in others it’s ridiculous, it is always politically potent. Who wants to argue about economic incentives when lives are at stake?

In the bigger picture, though, it gets things exactly wrong. The reality, born out by hundreds, if not thousands, of years of experience, is that economic growth does more to save lives than any government program ever could. After all, nothing, except maybe war, kills like poverty. Yet poverty globally is at an all-time low. And, as a result, life expectancies have soared. A century ago, the average person could expect to live to around 54 years old. A boy born today can expect to live to be 76, and a girl can expect to live about five years longer than that.

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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