False choices, sensible balances

Matt Miller, writing for the TPM Book Club on a new book by Justin Fox called The Myth of the Rational Market,  provides a thoughtful reformulation of  the “government vs markets” debate:

…we’re too often peddled a phony choice between “big government” and “free markets.” A wise society should be looking to find the right balance of both to serve its goals – and asking private and public sectors to focus on what each does (or could do) best. Government should set the right “rules of the game” in terms of creating incentives within which competition, greed and so forth work their invisible hand magic. Government is also good at cutting checks, so income supports like Social Security that serve social goals make great sense. And only government can make the public investments that support growth (via infrastructure, basic R & D, etc). The private sector is good at creatively optimizing financial outcomes whatever the rules may be, and at innovating endlessly to offer better products and services at lower prices. Most of our political life is the story of the fight over the proper balance between these forces in intelligent governance…

I might add that the opposite of “anti-government” isn’t “pro-government”. It’s better government.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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