Thursday, March 31, 2011

Captains of Corporatism

First, apologies for the length of time between posts. I have 4 or 5 drafts nearly ready to post, but, for various reasons, never completed them. Now they are out of date.

In any case, I'm writing about today's Lansing Chamber of Commerce Economic Club lunch, where Governor Rick Snyder was speaker.

The Governor is passionate about his plans, and is a decent speaker. He delivered an engaging address, without notes or teleprompter. He spoke about his thinking in preparing his economic plan, and addressed some of its controversial aspects with logic and reason.

The Governor's performance isn't why I write, however. At the end of his speech he answered a few questions. The questions were selected by the LCoC from emails sent by LCoC members. They were not all softballs. A couple were thoughtful and incisive. The Governor did a good job of answering them. I think he would have liked to expound on the difference between S-Corps and C-Corps, but he restrained himself.

The last question, however, stood out. It perfectly illustrated the single biggest problem with the thinking of "business people" today. The question was this (I paraphrase), "Given the obesity problem in Michigan, what are the chances of a government incentive to employers to help get their employees to become more fit?"

This question could have been planted by Michelle Obama. It clearly displays a fundamental misunderstanding of what "free market" means. It embodies the corporatist whore mentality. Yet, the LCoC presenter read it with no trace of irony or sarcasm.

Apparently, nobody in charge at the LCoC can parse that question, so I'll do it for them: "Governor, how can business use this "crisis" to get taxpayer dollars from the government?"

800 plus people had just listened to Rick Snyder tell us why he had proposed some tough economic reform. 800 plus people had just heard him talk about the dangers of government picking economic winners (though we still have Pure Michigan and the MEDC). 800 plus people had just heard him talk about his 3 principles of the tax code: Simplicity, fairness and efficiency.

Apparently, connecting that message to the negative aspects of granting of government favors is beyond the capability of the Lansing CoC.

Let's do the Snyder test on this question of subsidizing employers for their employees' fitness.

  1. It isn't simple because it has to have necessarily imperfect rules administered by necessarily imperfect bureaucrats.
  2. It isn't fair because it grants special status to one class of beggars.
  3. And it cannot be efficient because of the first two problems.
How is a subsidy to businesses to solve the "obesity crisis" any different than a subsidy to public employee unions for defined benefit pensions? Principle, people, principle. Read Atlas Shrugged to get a clue.

The Governor answered this question by talking about a Fall "initiative" on healthy living. He ended that answer with a comment about individual responsibility. I am hoping that was a subtle rebuke.

As for me, I would have ripped that question a new orifice.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did not hear the speech. Should I be optimistic that our new governor is going to do his honest best to serve the people of Michigan?

Kind of sounds like it, but my spirit has been deadened by scores of other politicians and office holders. I am cautious, maybe even skeptical.

Hershblogger said...

I have no idea if you should be optimistic.

On the whole, I am not. We have film subsidies and MEDC and Pure Michigan. Subject those to Snyder's Tax Test.

He will obviously either suspend principle if he thinks some really smart person can make "it" work, even if it is a bad, bad idea for free markets - or the free market isn't one of his principles. In political spin this is called "pragmatic." So was Bretton Woods. See where that got us. Those people were at least as smart as our Governor.

Yesterday, the Governor seemed proud to say, "We're not Wisconsin, we're Michigan." I am tempted to ask, "Why aren't we Wisconsin?"