Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, June 04, 2010

Big Government Big Business and Liberty

The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is deeply depressing. It should also be instructive. The reason the government isn't doing more to respond to the oil spill is because Republicans have spent the last 30 years making damn sure it didn't have the capability to do so. At the same time, the fact that BP was able to rack up hundreds of safety violations and still continue operating its dangerous wells is due to a combination of Republican gutting of regulatory agencies across all policy areas (from financial practices to coal mines to oil drilling), and a willful refusal to impose costs on those companies the few remaining investigators did manage to catch violating regulations.

I think this is the core of the story. However, the press has decided that the story is "Obama fails to react swiftly." OK, fine. Let's assume that Obama could have acted more swiftly. What exactly could he have done? The government does not have the equipment or personnel to do anything. The best the Obama administration can do with the tools Reagan, Bush, Gingrich, and Bush II have left it is spew outrage at BP. But somehow it is easier to blame Obama than a 30 year trend in policy change.

So what does this have to do with liberty? How much liberty do the people on the Gulf Coast have? The negligence of a single company has robbed tens of thousands of their livelihoods, tens of thousands more of important value of their property, not to mention the irreparable damage to public lands along the coast and the ecosystem of the Gulf itself. And it wasn't big government that robbed them of these things. It was the rogue behavior of a giant corporation that government could have but failed to hold accountable for the consequences of its actions until it was too late.

In the end, although I support a free market approach in most cases, this is why I'm a Democrat. I'm more afraid of BP than I am of the Census Bureau or the Department of Education.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Free market approach? Eh, when the oligarchy owns the "news" totally, the legislators and the President, what kind of free market approach do you support?

The first long researched term paper that I wrote in college was for an economics class. In the late 1960s.

I wrote on the "Oil Depletion Allowance."

I discovered that as a working class person putting myself through college by working, I personally paid more in income taxes than the 7 largest oil companies in the United States combined.

Free markets do not, never have and never will exist.

Raised By Republicans said...

By "free market approach" I mean that in general, people should have the right to own property and act in their own economic self interest. There are a number of circumstances where a hands off approach fails to generate the socially optimal outcomes but most of the time it works.

What Anonymous 12:44 is complaining about is not a free market per se but rather a specific tax policy. There are a number of such policies that are essentially give tax breaks for huge corporations. And that's the kind of policy I would prefer to see abolished. I hope that that attitude came through in the tone of my post.

What I want government to do is step in to protect people like Anonymous 12:44 and the rest of us from companies like BP. But I want government to do that without abolishing fundamental rights to private property and basic liberties. I believe such a middle path is possible.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It is a key political indicator whether a person is more concerned about the power of private corporations ("big business") or public institutions ("big government"). Americans overwhelmingly think they are more afraid of government. This is why liberals have such an uphill battle. The good news for liberals is that most people's experiences don't match up with this theoretical fear of government, and they can be persuaded to vote based on those real world experiences.