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Mark J. Perry

Assistant professor of economics, University of Michigan-Flint, adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.


Presenting the public sector in terms of the time the average American must work to pay its bills allows us to factor out the effect of inflation and draw some interesting contrasts with the costs we pay for goods in the private sector. 'In terms of work time,' say Cox and Alm [authors of Myths of Rich and Poor], 'the price of bacon and eggs has fallen 40 percent since 1970 ... A pound of ground beef declined by more than 5 minutes ... A dozen oranges is worth 10 minutes' work, cheaper by 6 minutes since 1970 ... A sample of 12 food staples - a market basket varied enough to provide three square meals - shows that what required 2 hours, 22 minutes of work time to buy in 1970 now takes only 1 hour, 45 minutes.' In terms of the time we must work to pay the bills, government is getting ever more expensive while what we buy in the marketplace is getting ever cheaper. You and I have been forced to relinquish most of this windfall to pay for government. Wise policy makers will work to control the cost of government so that it does not take from citizens the impressive gains they have made in the productive marketplace.

Jul. 5, 1999 - from "Cost of Government Goes Up While Costs of Living Go Down", published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy