In 1850, Frederic Bastiat wrote an essay/book about economics. He was a Frenchman, but much of what he had to say has bearing in today's world. He points out that a poor economist will only look at where government money is being spent, but that a good economist will look at where the money would have been spent if its use had been left in the hands of the public. He makes the point in several different ways--the money that goes to the government is depriving the individual who earned the money of something. Bastiat is not arguing for no taxes. He states that if something is of real utility to the public, then that may be sufficient cause to spend the money.
At one point, Bastiat offers this little question, "Which of the two is the most exacting parasite, the merchant or the official?" He then goes on to show that government involvement always costs more. He makes a case for keeping charities private and for the government to take a hands off approach to commerce. He demonstrates that frugality benefits a community more financially in the long run. This book is a fantastic read for every American. It can help us evaluate economic policies of our government.
My takeaway from this book: We must always look for the hidden result of any public or economic policy. We must use wisdom in government, just as we utilize wisdom in our private decisions. We must look at long term results not just short term benefits.
You can read That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen online here or you can purchase it in book form.