Gridlock is Good

Via this piece against the implementation of a Value-Added Tax (ie; “A VAT is a terrible idea if it triggers bigger government, and a VAT is a bad idea if it merely finances bigger government.”), I came across the below from a decade-old interview with Milton Friedman. It was 2000 and we had a budget surplus. Why?

Milton Friedman: The…reason you have a surplus today, in my opinion, the credit for that has to be given overwhelmingly to gridlock.
Peter Robinson: To gridlock?
Milton Friedman: If you had had a Democratic House and Senate, as well as a Democratic president, you would not have a surplus today in my opinion. They would have spent it. Similarly if you had had a Republican president as well as a Republican House and Senate, I doubt that there would have been a surplus today. Because they would either have spent it or had tax reductions.
Peter Robinson: So when President Clinton steps forward to take his bows, you don’t applaud at all?
Milton Friedman: Well, I applaud. He provided gridlock.
Peter Robinson: Okay, you applaud but for a different reason than the one he supposes.
Milton Friedman: The winning thing that really contributed to our successful economy over recent years is that the government has stayed out pretty much, with the White House and the Congress and the Senate haven’t done much.

Seems like the last ten years have pretty much proven him right.

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