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Can the government "fix" the economy?

As those of us in the United States prepare for what is sure to be a vitriolic election season, our thoughts turn to the role of the government in the economy. Candidates will be laying claim to economic "successes" and pointing fingers at economic "failures." But  how much credit or blame does either side deserve for the state of the economy? To be sure, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us in myriad ways, including cries for fiscal "stimulus." (We've included one item in this month's collection on how we have become socialized to expect "help" from the government.) And there is no doubt the world's economies have suffered as a result. 

In April, our QuickPicks collection focused on Public Choice, so in this month's collection we've tried to focus more on what the state should do with regard to the economy- we've gone all the way back to Adam Smith! As always, we hope you find this month's theme of interest, and perhaps it even sparks some conversation.

Speaking of conversation, we hope you'll join us next week to discuss Tyranny Comes Home. Visit our #EconlibReads page to learn more. Our sister site, AdamSmithWorks, is also hosting an online reading group this month, with a Virtual Reading Group focused on "Teaching Moral Sentiments in the Digital Age" coming up next month. Click here to learn more.

Is there something else you'd like to see- either in QuickPicks or online more generally? Let us know at or on social media. We're listening.

Presidential Economics
This presumption that the President is somehow in charge gives both the incumbent and his challenger something to talk about. All failings become the focus of the challenger. Why didn’t the incumbent do a better job of stimulating the economy? The incumbent points to anything good that happened during his watch as being part of his policy design.
Modesty versus Kludgeocracy
How has political governance become so complex- and often unproductive? Use this EconTalk podcast and complementary questions in class or as an assignment.
The Possibility of Anarchy?
"...some societies are better than others at solving problems of governance, either using private mechanisms or by designing and operating the institutions of government."
Socialization and the Role of Government
Whatever one’s view of the proper role of government as it relates to public health, another question must be posed: when, if ever, does public health provision as a public good supersede the protection of civil liberties as a fundamental role of the state?
Political Behavior
In politics, people’s goals are similar to the goals they have as consumers, producers, and resource suppliers in the private sector, but people participate instead as voters, politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists. In the political system, as in the marketplace, people are sometimes (but not always) selfish.
The Economic Way of Thinking About Politics
We call politicians our representatives and they often claim to be fighting for us. But when we think about it, we understand that our interests are diverse and that no politician can really fight for all of us.
What Would Adam Smith Say?
Read what Adam Smith had to say about the duties of the commonwealth in his masterpiece, The Wealth of Nations.
The Tolerable Administration of Justice
Listen to this EconTalk podcast with Peter Boetke on public governance, and continue the conversatiom with our complementary prompts.
Government Growth
What's the difference between the size and scope of government? Why does this distinction matter?
Fiscal Policy
Fiscal policy is the use of government spending and taxation to influence the economy. When the government decides on the goods and services it purchases, the transfer payments it distributes, or the taxes it collects, it is engaging in fiscal policy.
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