Five myths cloud our perception of both the past and the present. (1) The “robber baron” myth which holds that in late nineteenth-century America there were powerful men who became rich at the expense of the poor. The reality is that they became wealthy by being productive, and that there is no other period in history which saw such a rapid and widespread improvement in the well-being of the average individual. (2) The myth that the Great Depression was caused by a failure of business. It was, in fact, produced by a failure of government and specifically by the Federal Reserve System. (3) The myth that government in the economy has expanded in response to public demand. Actually, the public has had to be sold “hard” for politicians to enact every major social program. (4) The “free lunch” myth. No matter how the government raises money—by taxing individuals, by taxing businesses, or by printing more money — it is the individual who pays. (5) The myth that government, like Robin Hood, transfers wealth from the rich to the poor. The reality is that the government usually transfers wealth and income from both the very rich and the very poor to those in the middle.
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