So Tomorrow’s the big day. The U.S. government is slated to hit the debt ceiling, and with it will be faced with the prospect of actually having a balanced budget. I think the situation is nicely summed up in the opening sentence to an article from Cato: “America faces two very serious budget problems: Democrats, and Republicans.” Of course behind those problems are voters who vote for their congressman to steal and object to others’ doing the same.
This root problem is interesting and I’d like to take a minute to speculate about it. It looks like long term economic growth in the U.S. will slow down. The pace of government expansion can only continue so long before growth slows to a crawl and we hit some equilibrium. What happens then? I think there will be two changes in patterns of entrepreneurship.
The first change is a general decline in growth-oriented entrepreneurship. As the returns to private investment fall, young innovative entrepreneurs will focus on improving their (non-taxable) lifestyle rather than getting rich. Better to run a cool boutique shop and spend lots of time loafing around than work your ass off to pay taxes. Even more likely, students trained in navigating public schools and subsidized colleges will find themselves more at home in bureaucracy than industry. C students will get productive jobs and A students will shuffle papers.
The second change is an exodus of entrepreneurs. The U.S. isn’t the only game in town. The ambitious few who decide they want to make it big (and whose entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t been ground down by life in a culture that isn’t any longer interested in such ambition) will go elsewhere. And places like the Cayman Islands will get freer and flourish as they attract these entrepreneurs.
The U.S. as a country will gradually fade from prominence, the world will be less free overall, but some places will do well and will perhaps foster long run shifts.