Sunday, January 23, 2011

Public/Private Partnership carried to its logical conclusion

Anyone with the least ethical sensitivity would steer well clear of the nearly invisible line between "public/private partnership" and "corporatist whoredom."

That line proved too faint for Barack Obama and Jeffrey Immelt. Immelt will continue to serve as CEO of General Electric while simultaneously shaping the competitive environment for his competitors the nation. The President's appointment of Mr. Immelt to head the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness can be distinguished from similar actions in Mussolini's Italy primarily because of the good intentions of the participants. I'm not sure which set of participants.

The CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) will run on time. Important, since GE recently closed the last US factory making incandescent light bulbs - because of a Congressional mandate to ban incandescent light bulbs for which GE lobbied. (CFLs are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China. GE's CFLs come mostly from Asian factories.)

There is more on Immelt's appointment to be found at these links:
He melt for Obama
What's Good for Jeffrey Immelt Is Good for America
Obama Teams Up With G.E.
When Democrats said President Obama was “pro-business,” we didn’t know they meant one business in particular...

It is unclear how the administration plans to deal with the ethics challenges created by having a CEO whose income is determined by stock performance leading a panel designed to recommend government policies. G.E. (2009 revenue: $157 billion) is a huge government contractor and is always in the market for new subsidies and incentives.
Putting such decisions in the hands of bureaucrats is a sure recipe for corruption. They can practice it openly, and even be praised for it. It's to create jobs; It's for the environment; It's for national security; It's for the children.

That's actually the most evil part, far worse than the actual dollars being wasted. It habituates taxpayers to... well Tocqueville said it best:
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
Administrative despotism - EPA, HHS, TSA, FCC, FRS, FDA, FERC and most certainly Immelt's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness - is a greater threat to liberty than merely seizing our treasure and wasting it. Administrative despotism blames its failures on the supposed greed, parsimony and lack of compassion of capitalism and the free market, providing a ready list of red herrings and straw men for our Presidents, Governors, Senators, et. al..

It is often argued that with the right, and upright, people in charge these hazards can be avoided. Even if we accept that, and I do not, those "upright people" are complicit in preserving a legacy of corruption and misuse of power. That legacy is not as old as you might think it is, as this Heritage paper points out.

Other TOC commentary on corporatism can be found been here.

Update: 4:45PM
He Certainly Knows How to Cut Jobs…
GE finished 2009 with 18,000 fewer US workers than it had at the end of 2008, and US headcount is down 31,000 since Immelt’s first full year in 2002. During his [Immelt's] tenure, GE workers based in the US as a percentage of total employees has fallen to 44% from 52%.


Jason Gillman said...

"Corporatist Whoredom." Not a better way of saying it IMO.

Funny how I expected to see something about our governor after reading such a title.

Anonymous said...

We don't know for sure that Snyder will continue to be a corporatist. The March budget message likely will likely be revealing.

Of course, we don't know Lions will fail to win the 2012 Super Bowl either.

Hershblogger said...

Well, he _could_ reject his founder's faith in MEDC. He _could_ say SPARK worked because he got it started with $5mill from MEDC and that it's success might not be repeatable. He could say green manufacturing jobs are a crock, because China will do them cheaper.

Let's hope so.

I hope against hope that the budget will not reveal what I fear it will reveal.

I predict he will use the phrase "public/private" partnership at least 3 times, and that he will do it while decrying the failed movie subsidies, the failed ethanol experiment and that he will say, at least once, that we should stop "picking winners."

Then he will announce his picks.

No worse. Maybe better on the extreme margins. Not enough.

Think about it this way. Jennie has gone to teach at UC Berkeley. What do you think the chances are that Snyder will go on to teach at Hillsdale?