February 16, 2021 Reading Time: 4 minutes

In June of 2019 basketball great Kevin Durant tore his Achilles tendon. In the words of the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen, what Durant suffered was “basketball’s most devastating injury.” Despite this, Cohen goes on to write that in 2021, there “is nothing about Durant that suggests he is diminished in any way.”

Durant is back, and arguably playing better than ever. Keep in mind that before the injury he was playing at a Hall of Fame level, and that with the exception of LeBron James, he was arguably the best basketball player in the world.

Cohen quotes surgeon Robert Anderson as saying that an Achilles tear ‘”used to be the kiss of death,”’ but not anymore. Per Cohen, “Medicine changed over several decades. Science did too. Past results would not be indicative of Durant’s future performance.”

Please think about this. What used to end careers in basketball no longer necessarily does.

Notable about this is that all manner of maladies not related to sports used to amount to death sentences. As this column routinely makes plain, pneumonia used to be “Captain of Man’s Death” per the late surgeon and author, Lawrence D. Dorr. Tuberculosis was a quick life ender too. So was yellow fever. Cancer was a certain killer, but then most didn’t live long enough for some form of cancer to get them. See what used to bring on mortality first.

So what happened? Economic growth did. It’s that simple. Economic growth produced resources necessary for healthcare experimentation and advances that ultimately saved lives. Per Dorr, people could more and more “live once,” but “die twice.” As in people could survive what killed their ancestors, all care of medical advances made possible by the matching of the talented with the resources that are a consequence of economic growth. Wealth would save lives.

Crucial here is that wealth can’t be decreed, or engineered by governments despite what President Biden wants you to believe. Wealth is created. Always.

Which means that when politicians like Biden, and economists like Treasury secretary Yellen claim that a “big,” $1.9 trillion “stimulus” plan from the federal government will revive the U.S. economy, they’re lying. Through their teeth. There’s not a word in their confident pronouncements that has a kernel of truth to it. Government quite simply cannot create wealth. It can only redistribute wealth already created via its taxing and borrowing power, which means that Biden and Yellen’s confident pronouncements will ultimately amount to historical monuments to double counting. Government cannot create. It can only redistribute.

The only thing government can do is to get out of the way. The natural state of free people is to progress. To grow. If the aim is economic growth, the only answer is freedom for the individuals who comprise any economy to produce without limits foisted on them by witless politicians and economists.

Government spending is a certain limit placed on progress precisely because central planning doesn’t work. Since government can only redistribute previously created wealth with its spending, the latter signals the politicized allocation of what’s precious. It signals Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden substituting their judgement about how wealth should be allocated to the detriment of actual visionaries like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. Three individuals who have no track record when it comes to innovation or prescient investment, redistributing wealth that would otherwise be allocated in more careful, knowledgeable and market-driven fashion by some of the world’s greatest minds.

In short, government spending is by its very name an economic somnolent. The more wealth the federal government redistributes, the less that’s available for intrepid entrepreneurial endeavor without which there is no progress.

Back to Durant, medical and scientific advances have made it possible for athletes to come back from what used to end their careers. About those advances, they didn’t just happen. They were the direct result of brilliant medical and scientific minds being paired with wealth previously created.

This is why government spending is so dangerous. When governments spend, they consume wealth. Conversely, when the wealth creators in our midst get to keep the fruits of their enterprise, they have no choice but to put it to work. Translated, there are only so many houses, vacations, cars and other rich baubles that the well-to-do can buy. What they don’t spend builds the capital base, and with it capital available to the innovative.

About this, some will say government spends on research too. Sure it does. But implicit there is that absent politicized research, it wouldn’t happen. Please. That’s not serious. Private investment is all about removing unease from our lives, including erasing diseases. In other words, if the federal government were a microscopic fraction of its present self, there would still be the internet, cancer cures and other remarkable advances. The only difference is that they likely would have come sooner thanks to politicians consuming exponentially less of the wealth always and everywhere created in the private sector first.

And what about the lockdowns? By their very name they were anti-wealth creation. Workers and business owners suddenly saw their ability to create wealth curtailed. With less wealth created, there’s necessarily less progress. Lockdowns instituted with health in mind were logically anti-health precisely because they were anti-wealth. They were anti-resource without which the creative can’t vivify what’s on their minds.

What will it mean for the future? Very simply, this tragic imposition of command-and-control by politicians means progress against career-ending injuries for athletes will likely slow, the discovery of what will eventually render the internet primitive will similarly be rendered a more distant object, and then progress against diseases that still kill us will have been relatively suffocated. All so politicians could “do something.”

Reprinted from RealClearMarkets

John Tamny


John Tamny, research fellow of AIER, is editor of RealClearMarkets.

His book on current ideological trends is: They Are Both Wrong (AIER, 2019)

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