Tuesday, January 25, 2011
- Government As Investment Manager
The talk bubbling up about the State of the Union address is that team Obama wants to focus on ‘investment in innovation, education, and competitiveness’. As a guy who ‘invests for a living I find that to be breathtaking arrogant given the government’s history at picking winners and losers.
To believe that the only way we can be competitive as a nation, is by ensuring that team Obama’s campaign contributors manage to get all they can from the government Teat, is insulting. They could just as easily say that we’re going to go into business as the world’s supplier of $5,000 dollar toilet seats (in fact that would be more honest). How exactly does it help our global competitiveness to make sure that GE has enough in tax breaks, incentives, and a high enough regulatory barrier to entry, to make sure it has no competition in any business deemed ‘essential’ to US interests?
Education as the government does it, makes us less competitive not more, and they don’t know anything about innovation except maybe how to stifle it by protecting the swamp smelt or spotted owl. How can they believe that it’s rational for us all to continue to throw good money after bad on the three things that government does worse than anything else? Even social security is providing a negative return for many people, and how can investing be easier than that? Bernie Madoff was a crook but at least he had positive numbers as the bottom line for his Ponzi scheme.
The truth is, the only way that America can stay competitive is if we get our big government and the gaggle of social engineers that justify them out of the way of private industry.
The government only has one way to motivate people and that’s force. If force will work as an incentive, then the government should do it. Jails, courts, armies – these are the things government should do. It may do them badly, but it’s still their appropriate role. And until people can innovate better with a gun to their heads, government should stay out of the ‘investment’ business.