Jonah Goldberg

Well, food has gotten steadily cheaper -- for everybody -- over the last century. For instance, Perry calculates that eggs cost about one-tenth as much as they did at the beginning of the century. Moreover, Americans, with their allegedly stingy government, pay about half as much for food as Europeans do.

So, what has gotten more expensive? According to St. Lawrence University economist Steven Horwitz, there are only four areas that have become more expensive over the last century as measured in their "labor price": housing, cars, higher education and medical care. With the arguable exception of a college degree, all are marked with wildly improved quality. And the main reason for rising medical and college costs (and to a lesser degree housing costs) is that the government has distorted the market by "helping."

For example, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., underwent Lasik eye surgery in 2000. He paid cash, and it cost $2,000 an eye. "Since then," he told the Washington Post, "it's been revolutionized three times and now costs $800 an eye. This sector isn't immune from free-market principles."

No, but it is protected from them.

Even so, the costs of housing, food and clothing combined have dropped over the last century from about 75 percent of the average family's expenditures to around 35 percent, largely thanks to the ability of the market to democratize innovation and decrease the cost of necessities and conveniences.

None of this is to say that the middle class and the poor aren't facing tough times, or that our government policies are perfectly suited to their needs.

But ever since the dawn of the Obama presidency millennia ago, the air has been thick with claims that government needs to get much more deeply involved in the private sector. According to Obama and Co., only government can provide what the working people in America need, and "doing nothing" is the only unacceptable suggestion. "The one thing I don't want to hear," as Obama likes to say, is that more government isn't the answer.

Maybe he should get his hearing checked by the same guy who did Ryan's eyes.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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