Did big government get smaller in the 1980s and 1990s?

in recent times The Wall Street Journal In a report titled “New Climate, Tech Bills Expand Government’s Role in Private Markets,” senior author John Hilsenrath noted that with two recent bills, the Biden administration has “increased the federal government’s footprint in key sectors of the U.S. economy—including semiconductors, energy, and health—and once again in Washington. It further buried the widely held idea that private markets should be left alone without government involvement.”

Hilsenrath is correct that Biden has grown the federal government, and he correctly identifies that he has grown it most in domestic areas. (I’m leaving out Biden’s “imprint” on foreign policy in Eastern Europe.) He’s also right that Biden has further buried the idea that private markets should be kept free of government interference. But is he right that the idea of ​​refraining from interfering with the free market was “once widely held in Washington”? If “once” refers to, say, the early decades of the twentieth century, he might have a point, even though we were still in the Progressive Era. But Hilsonroth is referring to the 1980s and 1990s. when Rhetoric While the 1980s and 1990s were more pro-free markets, the follow-through was milder. Government also grew in the 1980s and 1990s, but more slowly than it had under Bush II, Obama, and Trump.

I followed Hilsenroth’s reporting Journal For many years. He has traditionally stuck to the facts, although now, as a senior correspondent rather than a reporter, he can give more of his interpretation to the facts. And in this article, that’s where he runs into trouble.

This is David R. From Henderson, “Rhetoric aside, ‘big government’ only gets bigger,” Defined conceptsAugust 25, 2022.

Absence of Hilsonroth’s Evidence:

Consider Hilsenroth’s evidence for his claim that the idea of ​​leaving private markets alone was widely held in Washington in the 1980s and 1990s. It consists of only three parts of proof. First, Milton Friedman’s case for small government “was embraced by Mr. Reagan and the Republican Party.” Second, Friedman’s case was embraced by middle-of-the-road Democrats, including Bill Clinton. Third, Clinton “declared in her 1996 State of the Union address that the era of big government was over.”

That’s it. This is his proof. What is missing? Any evidence that politicians in Washington actually pursued those views in the 1980s or 1990s. If a bank robber told us yesterday that he had reformed but a camera caught him stealing from a bank today, we would say that he had not reformed. Likewise, to get the case to take a stand, you have to show evidence that “huggers” worked on it Hilsonroth does not. He doesn’t even try.

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