If you want to understand how markets, and creative destruction, work, just turn to the comics page in your local newspaper. If you can find a copy. Newspaper circulation is tumbling.
Yet comics, and the newspapers they appear in, exist in the free market. As newspapers fade, people will be forced to find other ways to follow their beloved strips. Artists will adapt. Some will go out of business. Others will thrive, perhaps by moving to Web-only strips supported by advertising.
Government, on the other hand, doesn’t adapt.
To cite one example, the federal government runs at least 47 programs aimed at training workers. They don’t work. “Federal job training programs targeting youth and young adults have been found to be extraordinarily ineffective,” The Heritage Foundation’s David Muhlhausen writes. “The simple fact is that when it comes to federal job training programs, there is a dearth of evidence suggesting that these programs work.”
And the government itself agrees. “Only 5 of the 47 programs have had impact studies that assess whether the program is responsible for improved employment outcomes,” the Government Accounting Office has written. “The five impact studies generally found that the effects of participation were not consistent across programs, with only some demonstrating positive impacts that tended to be small, inconclusive, or restricted to short-term impacts.”
Yet each program seems to have enough supporters to keep it alive. Whenever Congress creates a new program, it simply leaves the old ones operating as well. It’s the embodiment of what Ronald Reagan said in 1964: “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So governments’ programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth.”