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Big Government Is Back With Massive State Interventions

Around the world, politicians are trying to bolster economies with moves not seen in decades—nationalization among them.

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Illustration: Jim Stoten for Bloomberg Businessweek

Germany’s government made an extravagant promise as it announced its second multibillion-euro nationalization of an energy company in a week. Speaking in Berlin on Sept. 21, Economy Minister Robert Habeck pledged that “the state will do everything” to minimize disruptions in natural gas supplies.

The message was intended to instill calm at a time of high anxiety, with Europe scrambling to replace imports of oil, coal, and above all gas from Russia. But Habeck’s choice of words also underscored that we’re living in a new era of big government. Whether it’s replacing lost income for workers and businesses during pandemic lockdowns or ensuring that there’s enough fuel to heat homes and power industries, state intervention is back in vogue in a way we haven’t seen since the early 1980s, when a toxic combination of high inflation and ballooning fiscal deficits forced a retreat.