Myths/liberal policies are bad for the economy

Jump to navigation Jump to search
seedling article
This article is incomplete. It might be useful as a reference, but avoid offering it as a definitive presentation. Mainly, it needs some examples of the cited claims.
Myth: Liberal policies are bad for the economy.


It is more or less accepted as gospel by many on the Right that liberal policies are destructive to an economy, for any number of reasons which apparently seem obvious to the right-wing moralistic mentality, including:

  • they often spend more when money is scarce
  • they like to spend other people's money
  • they "reward failure" and "punish success"
  • they "promote immorality"


These ways of looking at the problem are unrealistic if one is trying to actually solve problems rather than simply appear to be doing something good. Unfortunately, many on the right equate the latter with the former, which is why right-wing governments tend to screw up economies so badly. They sometimes seem to truly believe that a policy of "the beatings will continue until morale improves" is a workable approach.

Let's take a brief look at each argument:

Deficit Spending

Spending more when money is scarce may be a bad idea for a household, but individual savings are a terrible metaphor for an economy. The resulting "austerity" policies are equivalent to saying "my car is smoking and stalling a lot, so I think I'd better cut back on repairs until it's fixed" or "my salary has been cut back, so I'm going to save my resources by going to work less often until they raise it again".

Summary: When money is scarce in the economy, the government must release more into the economy so that it is less scarce.

Other People's Money

At its core, this argument is based on the idea that taxation is theft – that the government has no right to demand that people give over a portion of their surplus to the maintenance of the commonwealth, and that liberals are generally to blame for imposing this totalitarian burden on everyone else.

Unfortunately, no large society ever thrived without taxation – and the more complex a society becomes, the more it needs regulation in order to function properly. Technology creates power; the more power there is, the more it needs regulation in order to ensure some degree of freedom for all. Good government redistributes this power so that we all have more of it – a positive sum game – rather than allowing a few to grab most of it and thence enslave the rest.

Related: issuepedia:other people's money

Incentives vs. Aid

Right-wing philosophy sees everything in terms of compelling others, from which it follows that others should be forced to solve their own problems – or die trying – and that those with power should be rewarded further for having attained that power, because hierarchy and power are good and equality is bad.

Unfortunately, this leads to neither a healthy economy nor a happy population.

While a certain amount of positive feedback for success (and negative feedback for failure) may be essential for a happy and sustainable society, both of those must be tempered at the extremes. When a few people have too much power, they inevitably infringe on the basic freedoms and rights of others; when many people have too little, there comes a point when they simply lack the resources to recover from it, and should be helped to do so rather than being blamed (much less punished) for their own bad luck.

The right-wing approach of always "punishing failure" is equivalent to saying "my car is smoking and stalling a lot, so I'm going to punish it by cutting back on repairs until it shapes up" or "my salary has been cut back, so I'm going to punish my boss by going to work less often until he raises it again". They forget that people are what makes the economy run – and when fewer people have money to spend, the economy slows down.

Summary: The idea that people always get what they deserve (and deserve what they get) is a fallacy. Society exists to correct injustice, not to amplify it.


Liberal policies are designed in the light of past experience with what works, rather than to give the appearance of upholding arbitrary moral codes. If following a moral code leads to bad results, then it's a bad moral code, and people should stop following it.

Unfortunately, right-wingers often see moral codes as definitionally good and correct. While this is can be an internally consistent view (assuming that the moral codes do not contradict each other), it unavoidably causes unnecessary harm, since reality is never so simple as following a set of rules, and actions may have negative consequences even if you're precisely following a set of rules. Good rules are derived from past experience, and should be updated as new experience becomes available.

For example: sex education has been shown to be highly effective at reducing teen pregnancy, yet right-wing politicians insist on promoting "abstinence-based education" programs that have been shown to result in higher teen pregnancy rates – all because teaching sex education seems tantamount to promoting sexual intercourse. The fact that it is nothing of the kind is irrelevant; right-wingers are so deathly afraid of being perceived as promoting a "sin" that they would rather allow actual harm to occur than be associated with the "sinful" activity necessary to prevent it.

Summary: Whether an action is good or bad depends on results, or on the results that could be reasonably expected – not from whether an arbitrary set of rules is followed. Liberal policies prefer documented experience as a guide, rather than following dubious moral codes.

Nugget of Truth

As is the case with most authoritarian claims of danger, liberal policies are in fact a threat to centralized control (of the economy, in this case). This is more or less by definition, since liberalism favors a more egalitarian society.

Related Myths