A mere enumeration of government activity is evidence -- often the sole evidence offered -- of "inadequate" nongovernment institutions, whose "inability" to cope with problems "obviously" required state intervention. Government is depicted as acting not in response to its own political incentives and constraints but because it is compelled to do so by concern for the public interest: it "cannot keep its hands off" when so "much is at stake," when emergency "compels" it to supersede other decision making processes. Such a tableau simple ignores the possibility that there are political incentives for the production and distribution of "emergencies" to justify expansions of power as well as to use episodic emergencies as a reason for creating enduring government institutions.
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A mere enumeration of government activity is evidence — often the sole evidence offered — of “inadequate” nongovernment institutions, whose “inability” to cope with problems “obviously” required state intervention. Government is depicted as acting not in response to its own political incentives and constraints but because it is compelled to do so by concern for the public interest: it “cannot keep its hands off” when so “much is at stake,” when emergency “compels” it to supersede other decision making processes. Such a tableau simple ignores the possibility that there are political incentives for the production and distribution of “emergencies” to justify expansions of power as well as to use episodic emergencies as a reason for creating enduring government institutions.

-Thomas Sowell

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