Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Supply-Side Genesis

This column originally ran in the East Valley Tribune on Jan. 13, 2002, and isn't available online, but I want to refer to it in a comment to a post on Brad DeLong's website.

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 13, 2002

Genesis, Chapter 41 (Goldwater Institute Version):

And it came to pass one night that Pharaoh dreamed, and when he awoke, he called all his magicians and wise men, but none could interpret his dreams.

His chief butler then spoke, saying: I recall the time that Pharaoh, upset with his servants, put both the chief baker and me in the dungeon. Each of us dreamed a dream one night, but neither could interpret his dream.

In that dungeon was a young man, Joseph, a Hebrew and a liberal -- but I repeat myself. He interpreted our dreams, and as he interpreted, so it came to pass.

Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, who was brought out of the dungeon, shaved and dressed, and taken before Pharaoh.

And Pharaoh said to Joseph: I have dreamed dreams, and none can interpret them. I have heard that you can understand and interpret dreams. Joseph answered Pharaoh: It is not me, but if the Almighty desires, He shall give Pharaoh an answer.

Pharaoh then said to Joseph: In my first dream, I stood upon the bank of the river, and out of the river came seven fat and handsome cattle, which grazed in a meadow. Then seven other cattle came up after them, ill, scrawny, and ugly, and the seven lean cattle devoured the seven fat cattle. Then I awoke.

Then I had a second dream, where seven full, good ears of corn grew on a stalk. Seven withered and thin ears then sprang up, and swallowed the seven good ears. I recounted these dreams to my magicians, but none could interpret them.

And Joseph said: The dream of Pharaoh is the same dream, and the Eternal is showing Pharaoh what He shall do. The seven good cattle and the seven good ears are seven years of plenty. The seven thin and ugly cattle and the seven empty ears shall be seven years of famine.

Behold, there shall come seven years of great plenty throughout the land. Then shall come seven years of famine, and all the plenty shall be forgotten, and grievous famine shall consume the land.

Let Pharaoh plan for the future of his country, by decreeing the setting aside of reserves during the seven years of plenty, gathering food and corn in the cities and granaries against the seven years of famine. And those stores shall protect the land during the famine, and the people shall not perish.

And Pharaoh said to Joseph: You may be wise in interpreting dreams, but you know nothing of politics.

You must not know, having been locked in a dungeon these past two years, that I am a supply-side Pharaoh.

During years of plenty, we do not gather reserves nor do we plan for the future. The grain that will grow in abundance is not the government’s grain, and such abundance instead demands that the government set aside less grain, not more.

Right-wing Pharaohs, during years of plenty, want to cut taxes. The surplus generated by years of plenty may pay for an occasional new program. But conservative Pharaohs have no desire to prepare for the future—except by repealing the estate tax.

When the lean years come, famine may consume the land and afflict the people, but that hardship becomes yet another reason to cut taxes and to continue ignoring the future.

This philosophy may strike you, Joseph, as shortsighted and foolish. Years of famine always may come, and a wise ruler should prepare during the years of plenty.

But Pharaoh’s family and friends will have enough money to buy grain, no matter how severe the famine.

Pharaohs need not worry about famine. That is the beauty of being rich—and of term limits. I will rule over plenty; the next Pharaoh can deal with the famine.

And Pharaoh thanked Joseph for his time, gave him a snappy nickname, and ordered him returned to the dungeon.

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