A piece in the L.A. Times today (heads up from Patterico) examined the greatly expanded control of the auto industry by Obama’s task force. As the article notes, the auto task force moves from a role of making sure tax dollars are spent responsibly to actually setting industrial policy. For example, the task force decided that the Chevy Volt wouldn’t be competitive in the marketplace, that GM was making too many large vehicles, and that Chrysler needed to merge with foreign car maker Fiat.
If you think that sounds like Soviet-style central planning, you’re completely right, and I don’t believe it’s much of a hyperbole to say so. Defenders of the administration continue to repeat how they “inherited” this crisis (won’t be able to use that one for much longer) and how there is precedent for these kinds of actions. What I see , however, is that the earlier efforts were attempts at greater regulation, but never central policy making by a government bureaucracy, which is what we are beginning to see now.
There is a fundamental arrogance in thinking government alone can chart the right path. No matter what whiz team of brainiacs you put together, never will they be as astute to the needs of the people as the people themselves. In a free market system, the marketplace determines the value of certain ideas and products, not a dream team of analysts. The free market is where the rubber meets the road and where highfalutin theory submits to the instructive force of reality. In contrast, to assume that one group is more qualified to nanny the rest of us is to pursue a tunnel-vision approach to economic prosperity, and more importantly, requires we give up a substantial amount of self-determination. If you foster an attitude of “we know best, now sit down and let us take care of you,” what else can follow from that but massive ineptitude at best and tyranny at worst?
Patterico is right when he chastises the Times for trying to portray criticism as a partisan issue. It’s a question we fundamentally need to answer in this country – are we willing to forsake the principles of limited government that this country was founded on to achieve a momentary sense of financial security? If you believe in those founding principles, then the answer must be no.
Update: Just saw this story about Secretary Geithner being willing to throw out more CEOs. The corporate fatcats don’t deserve a whole lot of sympathy, but understand that what you’re witnessing is a power play to centralize more decision-making. I liked what one of the commenters on the article had to say: “Great. We have a man who has never run a for-profit company, who cannot even fill out his own income tax properly, now firing the heads of large manufacturing firms.” One thing you can be sure of – if Michael Moore loves it, it’s probably a bad idea.