Daniel J. Mitchell

What’s more realistic: A unicorn, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or a successful government program?

This isn’t a trick question. Even though I’ve presented both theoretical and empirical arguments against government spending, that doesn’t mean every government program is a failure.

I suppose the answer depends on the definition of success.

Government roads do enable me to get from Virginia to Washington every day. And the Post Office usually gets mail from one side of the country to another. By that standard, many government programs and activities yield positive results.

But if the question is whether government achieves anything in a cost-efficient manner, you’re probably better off searching under your bed for unicorns.

If you pose this question to someone on the left, however, don’t be surprised if they point to Head Start. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that this program gives low-income kids a critical leg up before they start school.

I would like this to be true. I may not be fond of big and bloated government, but the best interests of these kids are more important than my desire for a talking point against the welfare state.

So what does the evidence say?

Head Start CartoonHere’s what the Washington Examiner wrote about the program, starting with an explanation of what the program is supposed to accomplish.


Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.