I think Barack Obama is on to something when he says, as he did last night, that
You know, I don't want to run auto companies. I don't want to run banks. I've got two wars I've got to run already. I've got more than enough to do. So the sooner we can get out of that business, the better off we're going to be.
We are in unique circumstances. [...]
I'm always amused when I hear these, you know, criticisms of, oh, you know, Obama wants to grow government. No. I would love a nice, lean portfolio to deal with, but that's not the hand that's been dealt us.
When it comes to meddling in the affairs of private companies (at least, private companies outside of the health care and energy spheres), I basically take Obama at his word, and agree with his implicit criticism of those who picture the commander in chief rubbing his hands at the opportunity to seize a widget manufacturer or whatever. It does not make the (substantial) case against Obama's economic policies remotely more persuasive to portray him as some kind of gleeful nationalizing commie. He's not.
No, the operative pathology–which on some levels is much more insidious, because after all, it's in you and me–is the direct correlation between "unique circumstances" and massive government intervention. Put another way, every modern U.S. president becomes a reluctant central planner, some sooner than others. The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep that the lip-service paid to reluctance reflects, at the very least, an acknowledgement that something about a huge federal response just ain't natural.
But there is an another way in which Obama's statement is B.S.–he does want to grow government, in health care, industrial alt-energy planning, education, infrastructure, and regulation, to name a few of many areas. He may mouth a simultaneous concern about growing government deficits, but it just isn't believable.
This is basically the point I've been making, that we've reached the point where this isn't just about politicians, this is about what the public considers to be an acceptable response. Crises- any crises- means that we expect government action. Painting Obama as a socialist boogeyman obscures reality and is far less scary then the truth: that the real threats to freedom come not from dyed in the wool socialists, but from, as Matt Welch calls them, "reluctant central planners."