NYT Kristof: South Sudan shows why USA needs 'big government'

The intellectual prowess of those regularly writing for the opinion pages of the New York Times always leaves one awestruck.

In his latest article, Nicholas Kristof purports to educate readers as to how South Sudan is a model nation for showing why the United States needs "big government":

After hearing Republican presidential candidates denounce big government and burdensome regulation, I'd like to invite them to spend the night here in the midst of the civil war in South Sudan.

You hear gunfire, competing with yowls of hyenas, and you don't curse taxes. Rather, you yearn for a government that might install telephones, hire a 911 operator and dispatch the police ...

Government, laws and taxes are a burden, indeed, but they are also the basis for civilization.

It would be a nice narrative, if only the data supported it.

In fact, South Sudan, basket case though it is, spends far more on "big government" as a percentage of its economy than does the U.S.

Using data from the Federal Reserve, during 2015, the total expenditure of general government in South Sudan was 44% of GDP, compared to just 36% of GDP in the United States.  For 2016, this gap is expected to widen to 45% vs. 36%.

What South Sudan needs is "effective government."  It already has "big government" on a scale larger than the U.S when normalized to the size of the economy (which is, most serious economists will tell you, the metric to use).

And there is no correlation between "big government" and "effective government" at the international scale.  Contrary to what Kristof apparently believes, South Sudan actually proves that point quite nicely.