Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Governments Are Not the Solution to Many Problems

A piece in the New York Times: A fast, so-called car; Let our economy run free, save the planet; they shoot wild horses don’t they? (but no bullets please), etc…. HERE:

One suspects the most controversial piece in the section is some non-newswriting by columnist John Tierney. It is non-newswriting because few citations of sources and no opinions counter to his theme appear. It is a column. He channels the late and smart economist Julian Simon while arguing that the way to a greener, low-carbon future will be automatically followed if we just encourage national - and presumably individual - wealth. He doesn’t say it this way, but the implication is that individual self-interest and the hidden hand of Adam Smith will deliver us from the evils of a hothouse world. There is much truth in the piece: that wealth permits nations to maintain their environments, establish and maintain nat’l parks, provide healthy air and water, perform eco-tourism, etc. Which is why The Tracker firmly believes that right now, while we still have some wealth to gather up with our taxes, it is time to spend trillions and trillions of dollars in gov’t money (and stimulate even more in private capital) to transform the economy - by deliberate, political decision. Unfettered new coal plants ought, as soon as possible, be illegal. Tierney’s example of wealthy-means-green is the cleanup of sulphur from the air. That was by government cap-and-trade fiat. But Tierney’s approach appears more on the laissez faire, relax-already side. He says more on his blog. And there, readers have a lot to say in reply.”

Advocating spending ‘trillions and trillions of dollars in government money’ and at the same time ‘stimulat[ing] even more in private capital’, I am bound to ask from where is the government going to get this money?

Presumably, by taxing the private incomes, corporate profits, private spending, and private savings of the taxpayers, plus anything that can be ‘saved’ from government spending.

So, from what current/income and expenditures is this vast stream for the government’s coffers to come from? Which current spending is to be curtailed and taxed to pay for the approved goals of John Tierney?

As important, we should (always)ask what assurances, let alone certainties, are available for taxpayers (the electors) that the government’s institutions and the legislators (and those who influence them) are able to spend these vast sums efficiently and effectively?

Few governments, if any, and certainly for very few for long, have commendable records when it comes to large scale public spending, and this is especially true among the world’s governments where personal liberties are absent and not protected by independent justice systems.

Perhaps Milton Friedman was border-line hyperbolic when he surmised that if the Federal government in the USA was in charge of the Sahara desert, it would run out of sand.

But we know what he meant and suspect it would not be safe to trust any government ‘to spend trillions and trillions of dollars [of our] money’ productively to ‘deliver us from the evils of a hothouse world’.



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