Monday, February 20, 2012

Are Red-Staters Stupid?

Imagine there's a Federal Government program that is designed to help people... oh, I don't know, let's say help people lose weight.

The Program chugs along for years, and then an economist notices a funny thing: the states that get the most money for The Program are full of people who hate The Program. And those same states have the highest rates of obesity!

I see two likely explanations:

1) The Program is doing what it is supposed to do, and putting more resources in the states with the biggest problem. It's not the government's fault that the ingrates in those states don't know what's good for them.

2) The Program is having an unintended negative effect and is somehow making people fatter. The people know this, and that's why they don't like The Program.

Personally, I'd lean towards explanation number 2, but that's because I'm biased towards bottom-up rather than top-down solutions. To actually figure out which explanation was more correct would take some careful analysis.

The above thought experiment was inspired by Paul Krugman's column last week "Moochers for Self-Reliance," where he talks about the fact that Red States get more money per-capita from the Federal Government than Blue States. Because they're fatter poorer.

The possibility that more government spending could make everybody poorer doesn't seem to ever enter Professor Krugman's mind. Which is odd, because he's written quite eloquently about how the Soviets managed to bankrupt their economy by spending lots of money.