Friday, December 11, 2009

Speaking of a World in Need of Capitalism: Obamanomics

Tim Carney has a new book out on Obamanomics, which is good to hear.  Carney, like his mentor, the late Robert Novak, is a reporter first and an ideologue second, and there is far more dirt, collusion, and cronyism than pure political theory to report when it comes to Obama policies.

Carney’s book The Big Rip Off from a few years ago was similarly an expose of the way that pro-government and pro-market descriptions of the world quickly give way to messy, unprincipled public-private interaction in the real world.  All the more reason to strive to shrink government, which will always be an engine of predation, favoritism, and net wealth destruction.  It’s tempting for ideologues of all stripes to imagine that the world is behaving somewhat like their idealized models — if not out of optimism, then simply because the models are easier to understand than the insanity and conflict of the real world.  But that’s no excuse for ignoring the facts or for pretending that one’s favored politicians somehow approximate one’s ideals.

Carney’s descriptions of businesses talking like free market fans and then seeking regulations that crush their competitors or subsidies that give their own industries a leg up may have seemed like an unwelcome footnote to political debate just a few years ago, a problem to be cleaned up at some uncertain point in the future so that we can all go back to the more pleasant business of pretending daily life is, say, a conflict between libertarian entrepreneurs and principled socialist politicians.  A few years later, it should be obvious to everyone that government is a partner in pillage with well-connected businesses and that tragically few people are fighting for a consistent property rights regime — though that remains the right thing to do and the only beneficial direction to head.  (Likewise, few in government are engaged in redistributing wealth to the truly needy, if that’s what floats your boat.)

P.S. Oddly enough, one critic of Obama policies lately, now reportedly hoping to run for New York comptroller, is our disgraced former governor, Eliot Spitzer.  I cannot imagine why he thinks being a candidate for any office ostensibly concerned with ethics and good conduct is a viable move for him, though.  The anti-Spitzer campaign ads practically write themselves.  Trot out pictures of his prostitute with some slogan like “Spitzer?  Spits him” and he’s done for.

P.P.S.  I also question the economic wisdom of James Cameron, as previously noted — no matter how visually-stunning Avatar is, its Emerald Forest vs. Starship Troopers plot still seems to me unlikely to make back the immense financial investment, even with pricey IMAX 3D tickets.  But next week, I promise a couple blog entries on more bankable franchises, Spider-Man and the anniversary-approaching Simpsons.

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