Posted by: JDM..... | February 19, 2010

Government’s job…

…be there for us, but stay the hell out of the way…

Cato Institute scholars commented in their newsletter on President Obama’s recent commitment to support the redevelopment of nuclear power in the United States, calling his latest hole for throwing money down “radioactive corporate welfare”. Cato pointed out that perhaps the government should decline to finance any enterprise that can’t seem to find any “angels” in the private sector to supply the necessary shekels. Such reticence on the part of those who can usually be found liberally financing start-ups, IPOs, and other ventures hoping to create wealth might be interpreted as a “red flag” regarding the viability of the venture in question.

It goes deeper than that, however. Government’s role in our economy and society clearly should not be to provide venture capital, but one thing it could do without violating the principles upon which our way of life was built would be to get the hell out of the way. It is difficult to say on the basis of spreadsheets alone what might be viable and what might be a bust without taking government regulations and levels of micromanagement into serious consideration. Oil companies don’t seem to need government support in order to be profitable, but they do spend a fortune each year on lobbyists to ensure that the rules and regulations continue to favor their wishes. So do a lot of people. That’s one of the compromises we have to tolerate to protect liberty. It would be easy to just say “ban lobbying”, but before painting up a banner to wave on the street corner it might be wise to recognize that if the government can make the “big guys” shut up it can make you and I shut up, too. However, when government becomes both the regulator and the banker, all balance is lost, and dangerously so.

Nuclear energy, for example, is characterized by layer upon layer of rules, regulations, and complicated oversight, and well it should be. It has the potential for some serious danger, both in the long term and in the short. But if a reawakening of nuclear energy is a “good” idea, and I happen to think it is, then the private dollars available out there are more than adequate to fund the effort providing the gauntlet of regulation and safety measures are made navigable by the legislators and bureaucrats responsible for those areas of concern.

One of the great divides between Conservatives and Liberal in such matters is precisely that. Who pays for it?

Government ends up paying for many things which should more appropriately be the responsibility of non-government interests. Although it may appear to be good shepherding for the government to be deeply attentive to areas where it has sprinkled the public wealth, what might constitute good business practice makes for bad government. It allows or encourages government to go far beyond its mandate. I would prefer to see government focus on providing a safe environment in which the private sector could seek its own fortune as was originally conceived. Hard core Liberals disagree, harboring a distrust of the private sector akin to my distrust of the government. Most likely, we’re both right, but I prefer to be abused by forces I can tell to go to hell without being thrown in jail for my failure to genuflect on command. For those who think I’m overstating my point, I have a test.

Take your 2010 Federal Tax Return and your April electric bill. Scrawl “Kiss my ass” across the face of each of them before enclosing your check and sealing the envelope. I’ll wager the electric company will cash your check and the folks around the office will either laugh or be offended, but your lights will continue to burn in May. On the other hand, I’m not sure you won’t hear something from Uncle Sam about defacing government documents or some such horse shit.

Have a nice day, and don’t forget the love note on tax day….

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