Þar sem ég er á kafi í próflestri hef ég haft afskaplega takmarkaðan tíma til ritstarfa. Því hef ég ákveðið að birta nokkrar stuttar tilvitnanir sem ég tek úr bókinni Public Spending eftir breska hagfræðinginn Evan Davis. Í bókinni fjallar hann um opinber útgjöld og hvernig gera megi greinarmun á hinu opinbera sem veitanda þjónustu og greiðanda þjónustu.
“Optimists see government as a kind of ‘direct debit arrangement’. Government is our agent; it purchases various items on our behalf, and conveniently extracts payment from our payslips with a minimum of fuss. Of course optimists would concede that in practice government is not perfect, but it can reasonably strive to be: the goal of civilization for an optimist is to promote enlightened decision-making. Pessimists on the other hand see government as a ‘leviathan’ – a monster, out of control, terrorizing us with an insatiable appetite for our money. Its only purpose: to consume and to grow. It has a life of its own, interests of its own, and those interests are quite different from ours. The goal of civilization for pessimists is to tame the beast, or at least confine it.”…“Crucially, this is not the same as dividing the world into left and right, or into those in favour of big government and those in favour of small government. Optimists may more frequently be found on the left of politics – although by no means exclusively – and pessimists tend to be on the right. It is also true that pessimists tend to favour smaller government, because they think that most of what government does is a waste of time. But optimism about the potential of government is not the same as having the view that government must be large.”
“If we walked out of a store after a big weekly shop with a basket of goods most of which we had not meant to buy, and if we discovered that we had failed to purchase half the items we actually wanted, we would be pretty irritated with ourselves. Indeed, if we found week after week that we were leaving the shop with a trolley heaving with the wrong goods, we might become a little resistant to putting very much in our trolley at all in the future. The public’s preferences for public services matters.”
“Anyway, and this cannot be overstated, if there is a problem with government spending, it is not that it uses up money, it is that it uses up money badly: it is not the cost of government you need to worry about, it is the deadweight loss of government. If government is spending money on things that we would like to have – and that we would choose to have given the money we have – then there is no problem with it. The problems arise when decisions to buy things are made on behalf of people who would rather have the money to spend themselves.”