February 16, 2020 Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class,” wrote Frederic Bastiat, “unless other citizens and other classes have been forced to send it in.”

This is a good way to think about the spending plans of politicians. It’s not just about how much they want to spend on programs that benefit some people; it’s also about how much they desire to pillage from other people. This is because government is not magical. It has no resources of its own; it must take from society in order to bestow its blessings. 

It’s good to remember this in this season in which we daily hear astonishing numbers being thrown around. They don’t mean much to us really because we can’t really fathom the meaning of trillions of dollars, for example. 

In fact, I’ve never really understood why political campaigns bother with precision in spending plans at all. Why no just fling around the highest numbers that come to mind if that’s the way you think you can beat your opponents? 

Oddly, this is precisely what has happened with the Democrats this year. Every candidate is trying to beat the competitor candidates by promising more spending on things that everyone loves. It must be a heady experience, yelling to crowds how you are going to dump trillions and trillions on people’s favorite causes, while bearing no personal responsibility for finding a way to bring about the promised reality. 

Many people like to fantasize about what they would do if they were a millionaire for the day. Politicians fantasize about being multi-trillionaires for four years. Then they ask us to make their wacky dreams a reality.

Very few are tracking the insanity candidate by candidate. This is what John Stossel set out to do in this very revealing video. 

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder of the Brownstone Institute and an independent editorial consultant who served as Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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