We’ve got a special Monday George Will column today in honor of Mitt Romney’s weekend pick for vice president, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is so hot right now. Will likes the pick because, he says, it speaks to what might be called the Republican wing of the Republican Party, the opposite wing from Romney.
Will’s worries about Mitt Romney are several, but he is beginning to feel better about him. He points out that Romney had wavered on subsidies for alternative energy sources, which is a politically risky area for a guy who at the time needed the love of Iowans. But Romney now says he will not support further tax credits for wind power projects. It heartens Will, who doesn’t want the government picking winners and losers in industry.
This is where some commenters bridle: They argue that, actually, it is the government’s job to pick winners and losers.
ericcallenking says sometimes picking winners is a good idea; it’s just really worth figuring out which winners:
The US picks winners in the forms of the weapon systems it wants, or when it spent money on the interstate highway system, it supported auto and truck transportation. The government has supported many technologies that are now successes, from the internet to fracking. Energy security is national security, picking good technologies to support is exactly the right thing for the government to do, the problem is getting the government to stop supporting one of the losers, corn ethanol, once it has been entrenched.
The government built dams, subsidizing hydropower, that was picking a winner, should we not have done that? The government has always picked winners and losers and always will, it must just be made to make those picks more judiciously. Winners — rural electrification, the internet, space technology spinoffs, the internet highway system, fracking-etc.
John1233 argues we’re already goosing fossil fuels to win:
Where does Will, and other members of “the Republican wing of the Republican party” get off telling the rest of us about the dangers of government intervention in energy policy while at the same time gleefully sanctioning BILLIONS of dollars in tax subsidies to big oil?dinobot99_99 also argues for government’s involvement in industry:
Let’s start at the beginning. Government has supported industries, in order that something would develop where markets alone would not have done so, since the railroads. And subsidies to large companies in the form of tax credits has been going for who knows how long, with the oil sector being particularly well endowed.
billwilson18041 thinks that regardless of politics, the government usually does step in, eventually, when things are about to implode: :
Natural gas is great idea done right but let the government which represents the people, not corporations, do the job. Oh, you may say let the industry do it. Well, fine then, nobody would be upset. The government usually steps in when all else fails and industry fails.
Combining ericallenking’s point and billwilson18041’s, we’ll declare a consensus among commenters that the real problem is learning when to let a project die: Government has tremendous momentum to keep growing and funding things even if more interstate highways aren’t what we need anymore, and we end up just putting roofs on them, calling them warehouses, and using them to store millions of old abandoned windmills.