Saturday, June 12, 2010

Folsom Fisks Obama

Dr. Burton Folsom, author of the superb The Myth of the Robber Barons has written a superb fisking of Obama. That's a bit like Roger Federer pummeling me in a tennis match, but never mind that.

In a post on NRO he effortlessly corrects several of Obama's historical errors. (Federer's backhand comes to mind, but let's move on.) Obama said,
“What bothers me,” [he] told the graduating class at the University of Michigan last month, “is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad.”
Dr. Folsom is too classy to say it, so I will: that's a deliberate mischaracterization, known in non-academic circles as a lie.

As Dr. Folsom points out:
Only anarchists think all of government is inherently bad. Government has a useful constitutional function in protecting contracts and providing for the national defense. We need a government strong enough to protect our private property.
It gets better. Obama asserts:
“When we needed a way to reach the Pacific, our government helped build the railroads.” Then [he] added, “When the markets crashed during the Great Depression, and people lost their life savings, our government put in place a set of rules and safeguards to make sure that such a crisis never happened again.”
Dr. Folsom patiently corrects him, thusly:
Wrong on both counts. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific were poorly built railroads, they went broke, and both cost the nation over $60,000,000 to build — a sum higher than the total national debt just a decade before they were built. By contrast, the Great Northern Railroad, which was built with private money by James J. Hill, never went broke and was arguably the best-built railroad in the nation.

On the Great Depression, government intervention did not rescue the nation. The U. S. had more than 20 percent unemployment in 1939, toward the end of FDR’s second term. On the contrary, government intervention — through the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, the Farm Board, and the income tax hike to 63 percent on top incomes — triggered the depression, and FDR perpetuated it through failed stimulus packages and higher taxes.
One of the reasons I'm such a huge fan of Professor Folsom is that he backs his assertions with historical evidence, of which he is a master. I'm very big on people who support their statements with facts. What are the odds we could get Obama to do the same? About the same as me besting Roger in the French Open, I suspect.

[Update: Once again demonstrating his mastery of history, Dr. Folsom presents a few case studies in subsidies vs the free market, i.e. political 'entrepreneurship' vs market entrepreneurship. Sadly, plus ca change where Congress is concerned. Enough facts here to give any honest Progressive pause, if you can find such an unlikely creature.]

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