BY MALIA HILL-
“Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.”—Ronald Reagan
Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government. Here are some of the highlights from the past week:
It is the fashion (perhaps out of sheer editorial laziness) to try to break nearly everything into populist arguments about the large majority versus the tiny fraction—the 1% versus the 99%. Even in health care, we’re told that the majority of health care spending comes from a small minority of patients. But as John Goodman points out, in the world of health care spending, there’s much more mobility in that minority than you might imagine. In fact, most of the highest health care spenders in a given year are not in the same category in the following year. As Goodman explains, this has important ramifications on the purpose of health insurance and makes an argument for treating it more like true insurance.
Conspiracy theorists love to speculate on the reasons for the lack of a viable electric car. Perhaps they should ask whether it’s possible to kill the electric car with government grants and incentives. Because if it’s possible to bludgeon a project to death by showering it with taxpayer dollars, maybe that could be the explanation for the failure of Ener1, a manufacturer of electric vehicle batteries. The National Legal and Policy Center has the full story of Ener1, the millions it received in grants and subsidies, and its relationship with Think Global, the international electric car manufacturer that’s so good at going bankrupt that they decided to do it three times. Those who aren’t as fond of conspiracy might point out that poor business decisions and wasteful spending are at the heart of the debacle, but I think we should go with the conspiracy. Maybe we could convince people that taking taxpayer money to prop up failing businesses is bad luck. Hey, I can dream.
Even the President’s detractors will concede that he has a gift for soaring rhetoric—or, less charitably, a dependence on it. However, the President’s State of the Union address should have us hoping that his promises really are no more than rhetoric. Because as you unpack the implications of the promises of that speech, the fell hand of big government makes itself seen more and more clearly, with promise after promise suggesting that the President would use the power of government to compel the American people to realize these ideals. As Charles Kadlec explains in Forbes, it is a startling plan to expand government power based on a fundamental understanding of American cooperation.
Think, for a moment, about bankers and banks. Chances are you imagined something straight out of a 19th century cartoon, right down to a pinstriped waistcoat and a cigar. Now, think about your own local bank. Unless you recently got into an argument with that one teller who won’t cash a check without a DNA sample, you probably imagined a neighbor or the nice woman who helped you with a loan. This, in a nutshell, is the problem faced by banks in the backlash of financial scandal and economic uncertainty. We may not hold a grudge against our local branch, but in the abstract, most people can’t be bothered to shed a tear for the woes of banks.
Why is that a problem? Because the banking industry is currently facing the wrath of the government regulators who are smarting from similar PR problems, but have the advantage of someone to take it out on (i.e. the banks). As Robert Barba explains in American Banker, the situation is inherently troubled and primed for retribution and other unfair action against banks. In the long term, this can not only lead to further economic troubles, but also fosters the growth of unaccountable government, which should trouble anyone who is concerned about personal and economic freedom.
There are few things more certain to get you a ton of angry, hysterical, borderline-libelous responses than questioning the prevailing orthodoxy on global warming. The best you can hope for is to be mocked by actors and politicians who received their physics degrees at the University of An Inconvenient Truth. But slowly (very slowly), the voice of scientific reason is starting to be heard. As in the sixteen eminent scientists who published this letter in the Wall Street Journal, taking issue with any political claim that it is necessary to take dramatic action to address climate change. Not only do the writers question the science behind the “incontrovertible” claims of global warming (suggesting that they are, on the contrary, quite controvertible), but they also dare to look at the economic realities and cost-benefit factor in creating environmental laws that curtail economic growth. The letter is worth reading in its entirety, not least of all for the salutary lesson that environmental activists can be every bit as money-driven as the corporations they attack.
Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.
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