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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Everyone Loves a Generous Government Until They Have to Pay For It

Everyone Loves a Generous Government Until They Have to Pay For It

Not only does everyone love getting “free money” from the state, they also love hearing the fantasy repeated endlessly that debts are no problem.

Governments, like individuals, can spend liberally with great generosity, or they can be frugal. Everyone receiving government money loves the state’s free-spending generosity, as it is “free money” to the recipients.

But there is no such thing as truly “free money,” a reality discussed by Niccolo Machiavelli in his classic work on leadership and statecraft, The Prince, published in 1516. In Machiavelli’s terminology, leaders could either pursue the positive reputation of being liberal in their spending (not “liberal” in a political sense) or suffer the negative reputation of being mean, i.e. miserly, tight-fisted and frugal.

Machiavelli pointed out that the spending demanded to maintain the reputation for free-spending liberality soon exhausted the funds of the state and required the leader to levy increasingly heavy taxes on the citizenry to pay for the state’s largesse.

Once we examine this necessary consequence of liberal spending, it turns out the generous government is anything but generous, as it is eventually forced to impoverish its people to support its spending.

It is the miserly leader and state that is actually generous, for it is the miserly leader / state that places a light burden on the earnings and livelihoods of the citizenry.

As Machiavelli explained, taxes and the inflation that comes with free spending both rob everyone, while the state’s generosity is a political process that necessarily distributes the largesse asymmetrically:

If he is wise he ought not to fear the reputation of being mean, for in time he will come to be more considered than if liberal, seeing that with his economy his revenues are enough…

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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