Category Archives: Correspondence

What Free Market?

Here’s a letter to The Wall Street Journal:

Editor, The Wall Street Journal:

Andy Stern’s December 1 op-ed, “China’s Superior Economic Model,” blames America’s free-market fundamentalism for its economic troubles.

If America is indeed a free-market fundamentalist nation, it sure has a funny way of showing it. Federal, state, and local governments combine to spend roughly 40 percent of GDP. Washington indirectly spends another 12 percent of GDP by forcing businesses and consumers to comply with $1.75 trillion worth of federal regulations.

In his eagerness to attack free markets, Mr. Stern has confused the mixed economy’s crony capitalism for the real thing.

Ryan Young
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.

Missing the Bigger Story

Here’s a letter I recently sent to the Washington Post:

Editor, Washington Post:

Anita Kumar’s November 29 Virginia Politics blog post “McDonnell recommends eliminating agencies, boards, commissions” incompletely details Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s “ongoing effort to reshape and shrink state government.” By deregulating three professions, eliminating two state agencies, and merging 19 others, $2 million could be trimmed from the commonwealth’s budget if the legislature approves the proposal.

She does not mention that Virginia’s budget is set to increase by $1.1 billion in 2012. This new spending outweighs the proposed cuts by a factor of 550. Gov. McDonnell may be modestly reshaping government, but he certainly isn’t shrinking it.

Ryan Young, Washington
The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Let Me Be Clear

Here’s a letter I sent to Politico:

Editor, Politico:

Jonathan Allen’s November 28 article, “Mandatory budget cuts after supercommittee failure will trigger pain for some,” is misleading. A cut is when spending goes down. Federal spending will go up every year for at least the next ten years, even with the supercommittee’s failure to reach a bipartisan agreement.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, defense spending is projected to increase by 18 percent between 2013 and 2021. Discretionary spending is set to increase by 12 percent over the same period. These increases are lower than previous projections. But they are still increases. And an increase is not a cut. Not even in Washington.

Ryan Young

See also the chart below that the Mercatus Center’s Veronique De Rugy put together using CBO data. I can’t put it more plainly: there are no supercommittee-related budget cuts. Stop saying that there are.

Did Spending Cuts Cause the UK Riots?

Here’s a letter I recently sent to The New York Times:


 Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen worry in their August 11 op-ed that government spending cuts may be causing the UK riots. They also hint at what that could imply for the U.S.

A problem with their argument is that government spending in the UK has gone up sharply over the last decade. Government spending there is currently about 45 percent of GDP. In 2000, it was only 34 percent. There were no riots then.

A similar story has played out in America. When President Clinton left office, federal spending was 18 percent of GDP. Now it is 24 percent.

If spending cuts cause riots, then we should have nothing to worry about. The fact that we do means something else must be behind the looting.

Washington, D.C. Aug. 11, 2011
The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

What Shrinking Government?

I have a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post:

Richard Cohen fretted that Tea Party activists have “shrunk the government.” He need not worry. Federal spending has gone from $2.9 trillion in 2008 to $3.8 trillion in 2011. Thirty percent spending growth in three years is hardly shrinkage. Even under the Boehner plan, federal spending will continue to increase every year for at least the next decade.

Meanwhile, federal agencies continue to finalize more than 3,500 new regulations per year. They repeal almost none, no matter how loud the Tea Party’s howls.

If anything, Tea Party activists have been devastatingly ineffective at shrinking government. Mr. Cohen can rest easy.

Ryan Young, Washington

The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The Washington Version of Spending Cuts

Here’s a letter I sent to Politico:

Editor, Politico:

The title of your November 10 article, “Panel leaders propose Social Security cuts,” is inaccurate. A cut is when spending goes down. Social Security spending will go up if Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson’s recommendations are enacted. They would increase spending at a slower rate than under current policy. But it would still increase.

An increase is not a cut. Not even in Washington.

Ryan Young
Fellow in Regulatory Studies
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Responding to Media Matters

Apparently the folks at Media Matters didn’t care for my July 12 article in the Daily Caller debunking the cell phone cancer scare.

The trouble is, I’m not quite sure why. They never say. Jamison Foser’s blog post doesn’t touch a single argument I made in the article. Instead he attacks me personally, as well as CEI. For all I know, he agrees with everything I said. Or maybe he disagrees. I don’t know.

His main point is that corporate funding makes arguments untrustworthy. Since CEI receives some corporate funding, we are therefore suspicious. This is not a rigorous line of thought. Arguments are either right or wrong. The presence or absence of corporate funding has nothing to do with whether an argument is right or wrong.

There is also the matter of Media Matters’ own very generous corporate donors, which Foser does not address.

Media Matters’ fixation on corporate funding is an easy way for them to avoid genuine intellectual engagement. It is a diversion. If you are unable to attack the argument, then attack the person making it.

This ad hominem attack deserves a rebuttal. The Daily Caller was kind enough to run mine this morning. I hope you will take a few minutes to read it.

Unintended Consequences of Unemployment Benefits

This letter of mine ran in today’s New York Times in response to Paul Krugman’s July 4 column.

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman is at a loss to explain why some people oppose extending unemployment benefits. One reason people hold such an opinion is that when government subsidizes something, there tends to be more of it.

The more government subsidizes unemployment, the more people will indulge in it for longer periods of time.

Ryan Young
Washington, July 6, 2010

The writer is a journalism fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The Myth of Bush the Deregulator

Here’s a letter I sent recently to The New York Times:

May 14, 2010

Editor, The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

To the Editor:

Your May 12 article “With Obama, Regulations Are Back in Fashion” (page A15) asserts that the Bush administration had a “deregulatory agenda.” If that is true, then President Bush failed miserably in executing it.

His administration added 31,634 new regulations to the books, and repealed hardly any. The cost of complying with federal regulations exceeded $1 trillion for the first time on Bush’s watch. 587,321 new pages were added to Federal Register during the Bush years.*

Even the regulation-intensive Obama administration is passing new regulations at a pace nearly ten percent slower than President Bush.

Contrary to the article, the Bush administration was the best friend regulators have had in a generation or more.

Ryan Young
Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, DC

*All data from Wayne Crews, Ten Thousand Commandments.

I Get Hate Mail

A reader sent the following email to Wayne Crews and I in response to our article that ran in today’s AOL News. My reply follows.

Your vague double-talk would likely indicate that you are republican. The final statement in your opening paragraph seems to insinuate that the current administration (democrats) will escalate the already enormous number of federal regulations. If my recollection is correct, Clinton was the last president to really chisel away at some of this, and not only balanced the budget, but facilitated a surplus. Republicans, led by the renegade Bush, put us into a war, based on COMPLETE LIES which is the true base of the current enormous deficit. (Oh, and by the way, lots of Bush affiliates made a fortune over in Iraq. Hhmm?) This along with the deregulation pushed thru by the republican-controlled congress during the Clinton administration (giving banks ridiculously dangerous new powers) led to the economic CRASH of our current RECESSION (to put it lightly) – not to mention the crazy policies of the Federal Reserve and lack of oversight by the SEC during Bush’s DESPOTIC REIGN. The bail-outs pushed by Bush as he was leaving office and the subsequent pressured NECESSITY for Obama to continue in the same vein was certainly NOT the fault of the democrats. They were forced to deal with the CRAP left behind by the republicans, or face complete collapse of our entire economy. Bush and the republicans are the crazy lying right wing bigots that have the Christian right SNOWED. They could not care less about righteousness. They simply coddle the Christian right to get their votes with issues like Anti-Abortion and Anti-Gay-Marriage. The members of the early Church (followers of Christ after His death) sold everything and everyone put all their wealth together, and each was given as was needed (sort of like SOCIALISM or even COMMUNISM). The dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest stance of the republican party, supported by the Christian right, could not be any further from the system of the original followers of Christ, His Church.

I sent him this reply:

[Name redacted] – Thanks for writing. I am actually an independent. So is Wayne. I opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, am pro-gay marriage and pro-choice, I oppose the drug war and the PATRIOT Act, and I favor separation of church and state. It would be quite a stretch to call me a Republican. I share your negative opinion of Bush, and am proud that I never voted for him.

One point of correction, though: Bush and his fellow Republicans didn’t deregulate a thing. In fact, more than 30,000 new regulations hit the books on his watch! You can check the data for yourself in Wayne’s new study at

With 157,000 pages of regulations on the books from 59 different federal departments, it is quite difficult to even find a free market to blame for our troubles. That’s why there’s a growing consensus in the economic literature that decades of federal interventions into the housing market was a major cause of the recession.

All the best,


UPDATE: My correspondent replied with a very kind mea culpa this morning (4/16). He originally wrote in a fit of anger, and now retracts calling Wayne and I Republicans. Seems like a nice guy, actually.