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October 9, 2013

The Ratchet Effect

“[O]nce you give people a new entitlement, they won’t want to let go of it.”

Essential Liberty

Columnist Jonah Goldberg: “[T]here’s an intriguing consensus around one issue: the ratchet effect. Neither side uses the term, but both the right and left treat it as an article of faith. … [T]he state takes on massive new powers during a crisis, usually wars. When the crisis subsides, the state relinquishes some of those powers, but it never gives them all back. This is how the state grows over time. … On both the right and the left, there’s agreement that once you give people a new entitlement, they won’t want to let go of it. Government programs become so ingrained, even Tea Party protesters can hold signs saying ‘Keep government out of Medicare!’ … [M]odern societies tend to produce interest groups (also known as lobbies) that undermine the public good for private gain. Virtually everyone wants to get rid of mohair subsidies, but almost no one cares about getting rid of them as much as the subsidy’s recipients care about keeping them. … The White House hopes that Obamacare will create a coalition of interests … that will defend the law, regardless of the social costs.”

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