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A question for conservatives…

Here’s a simple question for conservatives:

During what period of time was economic prosperity most widely shared in America?

Was it before WWII? No, not even close. Was it after Reagan? No, I think it would be hard to argue that it hasn’t more or less been in constant decline since.

Even if you are to argue that it was in fact best during Reagan’s tenure (which I can neither dispute nor confirm), if nothing else one has to concede that it’s been downhill since.

So what marked the years from WWII to Reagan from the years before and after?

An economically interventionist government. Prior the government was highly laissez-faire, since the government (regardless of party in control, and conservative claims) has become increasingly laissez-faire.

So when conservatives claim a solution for America’s woes, they’re at best proposing a solution that has been untried and at worst (and more likely) proposing a solution that has been tried since time infinitum and failed.

That is, for 30+ years we had a solution that appeared to work. The counter-proposal that conservatives are offering and have been implementing is to go back to a system that existed before that 30+ years of success, a time where we clearly know the economy was broken for the vast majority of citizens. A time when we know prosperity was not widely shared

Their solution is ideological, not tactical. It’s about what they want it to be, not what it is, or rather, was. It may be true that there is something unappealing about an economic system that is not self-regulating, but the history has shown that partially, but not excessively, managed economies work. It has not shown that laissez-faire economies work – quite the opposite in fact: a millennia of world history shows otherwise.

It is as if a patient who suffered for his entire life finally found a drug that worked, and worked for decades. Then a new doctor insisted out of some puritanical belief that such intervention was wrong and that the patient reduce his use of the medicine.

Oddly enough, as the patient reduced his use, he got sicker, to which the doctor insisted the answer was to use still less medicine (and so on).

That’s where we are now. The patient is sick and the so-called “solution” is making us sicker. Yes, the government doesn’t always get the prescription right and it is possible to over-prescribe, but the answer is not to lay off the medicine altogether.


I should note there could be other explanations as to why the 30+ years after WWII were a success. Certainly some was the “stimulus” of war spending itself, but I don’t think that can explain anywhere near the entire span.

What can be argued at least is that heavy government intervention and heavy taxes did not derail the economy. So at a minimum the arguments that these somehow are an anathema to a successful economy is a fallacy.

I guess I’ll flip the question around for conservatives if that helps:

Point to a time when laissez-faire economic policies led to broad economic prosperity?

I don’t mean just in America, I mean anywhere.

I suspect the claim will be colonial America. To that I would say two things:

  1. We are no longer an agrarian society with and endless frontier. That is simply is not a tenable future given modern realities. We also, thankfully, do not have slavery as an option.
  2. I believe any realistic census of income data from that time would show prosperity was not widely shared. It is true that subsistence farming was potentially an option for many, but again that is not plausible now and even then the slums of NY were laden with the landless.

In short, what historic reference do conservatives want to point to where their economic theories are born out?

If there is no such time period, then please explain how you are so sure that these “theories” (and that’s just what they are then) will work better than ones that at least have shown some historic precedence in the post-war boom.


If the argument in response is to highlight the ultimate “unfairness” of government intervention, rather than the importance of broader prosperity, I would point you here.

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