Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama's Latest

Reason's Matt Welch makes a good point in regards to Obama's propensity as a centralized economic planner:

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."


Anonymous rose said...

Are you and Welch suggesting Obama is simply misguided in his handlings of Chrysler and GM? You don't think that he sees the situation as a unique opportunity to speed the development of hybrids and electrics?

And what about his decision regarding student loans? Students have had the choice between borrowing directly from the government, or using private lenders as intermediaries and have overwhelmingly chosen the latter for a couple decades. Why eliminate private competition? How can that help students?

Why cut the tax deduction on charitable donations one week and expand funding for the Americorps the next? Why divert dollars from more effective private charities to wasteful public "charities"?

This is all just "misguided"? I see a guy substituting government control for private wherever it is politically possible to do so, regardless of whether it leads to better ends.

What would a "dyed in the wool" closet Marxist, who was skilled at pushing his agenda w/ out over-reaching do diffently than what Obama has done? I'm not saying he's a legit Marxist, but he certainly has tendencies that go beyond misguided and indicate an all-else-equal bias against everything free and competitive.

3:02 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Welch says he takes Obama at his word when he says he really doesn't want to meddle into the affairs of private companies (or at least those companies outside the spheres of health care and energy). And I tend to agree. As I said many times leading into the election, Obama is an opportunist, not an ideologue. The goal isn't to have government replace the private sector, the goal is much more moderate: to use government to fix each and every problem of society, one by one. And this isn't extreme leftism, but a reflection of mainstream American opinion.

Casting Obama as a Marxist only obscures the truth of people's true political opinions. If John McCain had been elected, I think in some regards he may have been better than Obama, but in others he may have been a lot worse. (And we saw hints of this in McCain's wildly inconsistent responses as the economic crises hit.) Without even getting into whether or not Republicans really represent big government, I think it's safe to say that the great middle of America is more than comfortable with big federal responses to every perceived economic crisis.

In the end, it doesn't really matter whether Obama is an ultra-leftist or a middle-of-the-roader. What's important to recognize is that however many people may have attended tea parties, most Americans are still in favor of strong government action in economic crises. And painting the debate as freedom-loving Americans versus socialists doesn't win you any points with those who aren't already strongly on your side.

3:26 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Or to make my point a bit shorter:

Yes it's good to oppose all of these big government objectives, but throwing around terms like "socialist" and "Marxist" are counterproductive, particularly if your goal is winning in argument in the court of public opinion.

You would think the right had learned from eight years of anti-Bush nonsense how insanely stupid it is to continually refer to your opposition as fascists.

3:31 PM  

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