Government is what government does, and what government does is what government spends. Our government is a corrupt HMO with an underfunded pension plan attached, and a few aircraft carriers in tow. Contra Professor Mazzucato, the confiscatory taxes the federal government wishes to impose upon Apple et al. are not being used to replenish any such “innovation fund” as may exist in her imagination, but to prop up the corrupt, wasteful, and destructive programs that make up the great majority of its spending. Federal support for basic science research is pretty low on the list of things that small-government conservatives are worried about, and George Will is not entirely misguided in his admiration for the National Institutes of Health. But the neo-Nehruvian dream of the state as main entrepreneur cannot intellectually survive even the most modest attempt to balance benefits against costs.
As the CBO sees it, the economic weight of the deficits we’re expected to add just in the next 25 years is enough to bring the national debt from 100 percent of GDP to 200 or 250 percent of GDP, i.e., from paralyzing to catastrophic. The deficits we’ve run for the last 25 years have imposed costs of their own. That the costs mainly manifest themselves negatively — in the form of businesses that don’t exist, profits that aren’t collected, and help that is not wanted — does not make them any less real, or less tragic. In the long run, the deficit is as much about whether you have a decent job or die from diabetes complications as it is about figures in CBO estimates. The price may not always be obvious, but you pay it every day.