Thursday, June 3, 2010

Obama Makes Oil Spill Problem Worse

John Calfee writing at the AEI site has published a highly intelligent essay arguing that Obama has just made solving the oil spill problem harder. Using examples from tort law and medicine he reasons that sending in Holder's minions to look for criminal wrongdoing is bound to make matters worse.

That shouldn't be too surprising. Apart from Obama's near total lack of practical experience at anything but politics, and his colossal ineptness at anything but snake oil sales, government involvement can't improve the situation. It's an engineering problem, and a darned tough one. Politics is about ass covering, not well capping. It's about popping up out of a manure pile looking shiny, not about cleaning up a mess.

More than that, the type of person who seeks power as Obama and his cronies have for decades does not develop the mental skills to solve real-world problems outside of politics. Power corrupts, and long before anyone acquires it. The very act of seeking it injures one's character.

One sees this in large corporations all the time. Even there, where authority isn't coupled with coercion, one can observe formerly decent people change for the worse when they become managers. They become less willing to state the truth frankly and more forgiving of bad behavior on the part of those in charge. It takes an extraordinary kind of person not be corrupted by that and, by definition, few people are extraordinary.

That incentive is all the stronger because of the collectivist nature of most large companies today. Enter a business meeting and suddenly those who were joking with you a moment earlier join the pack. They are perfectly prepared to feed you to the wolves to deflect criticism. The wolves are in turn busy deflecting any potential criticism from themselves by the bears, and so it goes, on up the food chain.

Introducing coercion, as Obama has now done via the prospect of people actually going to jail for negligence — while expecting those same people to solve a highly complex engineering problem with serious environmental implications — is a recipe for disaster.

It may be that Obama honestly believes it's possible to frighten managers into haranguing technicians to solve it more quickly. But I'm willing to go out on a limb here and suggest that Obama really doesn't care if it makes the problem harder to solve. Following his buddy Emanuel's methodology, he can't let this crisis go to waste. It's too ripe with possibilities for furthering his agenda of "weaning us off fossil fuels and our addiction to oil."

Problems of this sort, however, will never get solved until Americans get weaned of their addiction to government solutions.

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