A Yardstick for Reform

While recently revisiting my old friend the Export-Import Bank, which is up for reauthorization this September, I was reminded of a quote from Nobel laureate Ronald Coase’s 1975 essay “Economists and Public Policy,” which appears on p. 57 of 1995’s Essays on Economics and Economists:

An economist who, by his efforts, is able to postpone by a week a government program which wastes $100 million a year (which I would call a modest success) has, by his action, earned his salary for the whole of his life.

By this measure, the Ex-Im Bank controversy over the last several years was a success, though there is more work to be done. In 2014 the agency’s authorization lapsed for nearly a year, and after that it was limited to small transactions until May 2019. The total savings run into the tens of billions of dollars.

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