“I haven’t cried like this since Malik made the game-winning basket against Gonzaga.” Those are the words of St. John’s College high school (Washington, D.C.) coach Patrick Behan. He was crying as he told his players that “I was diagnosed with ALS,” otherwise known Lou Gehrig’s disease.
As the Washington Post story about Behan explained, there is no cure for a disease that “causes harrowing muscle degeneration and carries an average life expectancy of three to five years after diagnosis.” As many readers know from family members and friends who’ve been stricken, it’s a thoroughly nasty way to go.
It’s useful to think about in terms of government spending. About looking at ALS through the spending prism, some will want to criticize the politicization of a horrid disease. Except that’s not what’s being done. American politics is about votes, it’s about Democrats versus Republicans. That’s not what this is about, and it’s not because as we know, the size and scope of government grows no matter what. While one Party claims a limited government inclination versus the other claiming a desire for something more expansive, the size of government goes up no matter the party in power. At which point this write-up aims not to politicize ALS, but to cause readers to see it in economic terms.
The simple truth is that economic growth is the most formidable foe death and disease have ever known, and nothing else comes close. In that case, consider healthcare in the 19th century. As documented in my book When Politicians Panicked, a broken femur in the 19th century came with high odds of death. Best case scenario was amputation. Broken hips were a death sentence. So was birth. When born you had as good a chance of dying as living. Cancer was a death sentence, but not as many died of it as readers might think. They didn’t because pneumonia, tuberculosis and other common illnesses got to people well before cancer did.
So what changed? Why do people live so long today? The answer is simple. Economic growth. Thanks to abundant wealth creation, medicine became a serious profession. Thanks to scientists being matched with staggering amounts of wealth (in his lifetime alone John D. Rockefeller gave away $530 million, and $450 million went to medical research), more and more knowledge was produced that led to cures for that which used to kill us.
Please keep all of this in mind with government spending top of mind. And please forget about political parties. It once again doesn’t much matter who is in power. Politicians exist to spend. If cash flow is oxygen to businesses, wasting the money of others is oxygen to politicians.
The problem is that what feeds politicians, what gives them cushy retirements preceded by obsequious treatment pre-retirement, is what delays cures for life’s most vicious diseases. Yes, it’s really that simple.
Even if some readers believe against all evidence that government is uniquely situated to advance medical cures, what can’t be denied even there is that without the private sector there is no government. All wealth creation begins in the private sector, which means the only way to beat ALS is for the productive outside of government to be left alone so that they can produce as creatively and abundantly as possible. Put another way, we need much more wealth inequality.
Barring wealth creation, how else can the medically intrepid armed with soaring wealth produce the information necessary to render ALS yesterday’s killer?
It's worth bringing up that ALS used to not be a notable killer. It wasn’t for the same reason that cancer wasn’t. Too many other horrid maladies had their way with us first. Life used to be so cruel. And it was cruel because we knew so little.
The above truth must be understood if we’re to properly understand the horrors of government spending. For too long economists have promoted the shockingly obtuse falsehood that the politicized allocation of wealth stimulates economic growth, while their obnoxious enablers in politics have talked about reductions in waste as either “hard choices” (Democrats) or the forced consumption of "spinach" (Republicans). Both sides have for too long vandalized common sense while insulting our collective intelligence.
In reality, government spending is the restraint of knowledge without which there is no progress. Government spending blinds us. Entrepreneurs are just individuals with ideas absent capital, and government is the biggest consumer of capital. So shrink government. Not because you’re a Democrat or a Republican, but because you’re tired of hearing about good people dying too young.