Open Thread: No, You Can't

In his column today, Fox Business Network host John Stossel makes an interesting observation: Americans are suspicious of government and yet they seem unable to resist the impulse to grow it. This despite the manifest record of failure that Big Government has racked up for itself:

Opinion polls suggest that Americans are dissatisfied with government. Yet whenever another crisis hits, the natural human instinct is to say, "Why doesn't the government do something?"

And politicians appear to be problem-solvers. We believe them when they say, "Yes, we can!"

In 2008, when Barack Obama's supporters shouted, "Yes, we can!" they expressed faith in the power of government to solve problems. Some acted as if Obama were a magical politician whose election would end poverty and inequality and bring us to "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

At least now people have come to understand that presidents -- including this president -- can't perform miracles.

In other words: No, they can't! -- which happens to be the title of my new book.

Free people, however, do perform miracles, which is why "No's" subtitle is: "Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed."

Those who believe an elite group of central planners can accomplish more than free people need some economics. I hope my book helps.

People vastly overestimate the ability of central planners to improve on the independent action of diverse individuals. What I've learned watching regulators is that they almost always make things worse. If regulators did nothing, the self-correcting mechanisms of the market would mitigate most problems with more finesse. And less cost.

But people don't get that. People instinctively say, "There ought to be a law."

How can conservatives persuade people to stop leaning on the crutch of government and start taking more self-initiative?

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013