Yet many foolish beliefs have a strong grip on our imagination, and, of course, ridicule is more easily heaped on ideas in decline than on ideas in the ascendancy. Take the widely held belief that lowering taxes and cutting government spending is what’s needed to grow the economy. This idea has been in the ascendancy for thirty years. Liberals have struggled in vain to point out that this article of Republican faith lacks a rationally persuasive account of why it’s true. It’s contrary to the evidence. Yet, the belief has been curiously respectable and immune to ridicule, despite the best efforts of brave souls like Reich and Krugman to point out the emperor has no clothes. When will we know then, that we have these ideas on the run? It’s when we once again hear commentary like Thurman Arnold’s in The Folklore of Capitalism (1937). This from the last time we had this belief on the run:
It was bad form for men to become dependent on government organization; but it was a good thing for employees to become completely dependent on industrial organization, which was supposed to foster initiative and independence down to the lowest worker . . . [W]hen the government wasted, it was wasting the taxpayer’s money. When a railroad, or public utility, wasted it was wasting its own money—which, of course, every free individual has a right to do unless you are willing to change your “system of government” and adopt “Socialism.” Of course, the great industrial organizations collected the money they spent from the same public from which the government collected. However, in the case of a public utility, or textile concern, or a building corporation, the collection was voluntary, since men could go without clothes, light or houses . . . . When the government collected, the collection was an involuntary tax, which in the long run fell upon the poor, because of the great principle that it is unjust to tax the righ any more than you happen to be taxing them at the time, and that the rich will refuse to hire the poor if taxed unjustly.
Now there is putting a belief not supported by a persuasive account of why it's true in its place!