I look at The Economist as a pretty authoritative news magazine. Sure it’s British. Yes, it’s rather conservative in its outlook. Of course it’s sometimes overly sarcastic. But it’s widely respected and when I read it, though I often disagree, I feel it gives me a good idea of what the movers and shakers of the world are thinking. Its audience is undoubtedly the world’s politically knowledgeable and wealthy. Looking at its pages, from the tone of the articles to the advertisements, I can learn not only about the world, but also the worldview of the people reading this magazine. I guess in some sense I look at The Economist as a sort of control group for moderate free-market conservatives. Reading The Economist can be a sort of sociological journey into the minds of the world’s elite.
Last week I came across the following advertisement on page 19 of the Nov. 9 edition. It was for something called iShares, put out by Barclays Global Investors. It was a full page ad, the top of which read: “On one hand THE GOVERNMENT uses YOUR TAX DOLLARS to improve health care, reform education and protect the environment. On the other hand KEEPING YOUR MONEY IN YOUR POCKET isn’t half bad (emphasis theirs).” It then continues, “To help ensure your hard-earned money stays exactly where it belongs, consider the advantages of iShares?” The ad also prominently features a picture of a well-groomed man in his mid-sixties, sharing some time with his grandson on the edge of their swimming pool with a plate of what I assume to be fine caviar but could just as easily be Oreo cookies.
This struck me as an exceptionally stupid ad and I spent the good part of a day showing it to people, expecting them to burst out laughing. I mean, it’s ridiculous. First of all, it clearly means to contrast wasteful government spending with spending “your” money on better things, like family. But their examples are pretty dumb. Health care? Reforming education? Saving the environment? These seem like pretty worthwhile things to me. If you sat me down and asked me my top five priorities for my tax dollars, these three would all be on the list.
Compounding the stupidity of this ad is that it would have been so much easier to find real examples of government waste. Even crazy pro-tax pro-social program liberals like me can find plenty of places where the government wastes money. Beyond obvious and clich