Commentary Magazine


If You Do It All, It’s All Your Fault

George Will shares my suspicion that Obama is running a faux bankruptcy in order for GM to shield the UAW from a real one. But the new D.C. management team is coming on board right as excess capacity requires less production and fewer jobs. Moreover, as Will points out, the administration’s penchant for small, green cars is coming up against the reality of plummeting sales of just the sort of models Obama would like us all to be driving. Darn consumers — always seem to have a mind of their own. Will concludes:

His administration cannot be faulted for failing to do well what cannot be done well — industrial policy, wherein the political class, with negligible experience in commerce, flounders. The administration can, however, be faulted for trying.

But the hubris that permeates much of the Obama policy agenda dictates that healthcare, carbon emissions, labor policy, executive compensation and education all be run out of  buildings in Washington.  Or as Professor Kenneth Scott comments:

In France, it is called “dirigisme”, which was the prevailing concept of the 1970s and 1980s and still persists in the form of “national champions” to be protected from foreign ownership or competition, and the like. It is a French attitude of the government knowing best in all areas, which reached its high point under Louis XIV but has continued on today under a ‘conservative’ like Sarkozy. So if you would like a preview of the consequences, look abroad.

The problem with government gobbling up private firms, controlling more of the country’s resources, raising taxes and nationalizing healthcare — quite apart from any attachment one may have to individual freedom — is that the public holds government responsible for more and more of what goes wrong. And if the record of European governments in delivering jobs, prosperity, and innovative healthcare is less than sterling, it might give you a picture of the current misguided scheme. The more the government does, the more the voters will have to complain to and  about the government. (Complain loudly, if the AIG fiasco is any guide.)

At the very least, the statist micro-management approach to governance is a leap of faith. It has no record of ever succeeding. But I’m sure the Obama team has it all figured out.