On this Veterans Day, I’d like to thank those who have labored in military service to this country. They have helped secure the environment in which people are free to engage in the production and sale of goods and services to fill a variety of human wants and needs. Commerce can and does occur during wartime, but a strong and effective military secures periods of relative peace and tranquility in which economic activity can flourish.
There are lots of other interesting thoughts that come to mind on this day. But there’s no time to elaborate in great detail, so I’ll mention a few in passing.
1. Guns versus butter and opportunity costs. The amount we devote to military spending as a nation reminds us that opportunity costs exist. It would be helpful if politicians, regulators, and indeed all of us remember that truth as we think about the functions of government.
2. Prosperity is secured when government provides for a predictable environment, as was made clear in The Other Path. In other words, the market does not exist in a vacuum, but operates best when it operates in conjunction with moral and political institutions.
3. Once a government program gets established, it’s nearly impossible to kill it–but it can on occasion happen. In my first foray into academic political science, I wrote a paper on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission. BRAC was the brainchild of Dick Armey, who wanted to find a way to eliminate spending on military bases that were obsolete.
4. The U.S. Government operates and extensive medical system in the VA hospitals. It’s not entirely a cheerful face for the future of increased government involvement in health care.