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Office of People Who Are Much Smarter Than You Are

March 31, 2009

The essence of what I alluded to my post yesterday about the President’s actions with respect to the auto industry was nicely captured by David Brooks in today’s New York Times:

Well, the president certainly acted tough on Monday. In a show of force, he released plans from his Office of People Who Are Much Smarter Than You Are. These plans insert the government into the car business in all sorts of ways. They pick winners (new C.E.O. Fritz Henderson) and losers (Rick Wagoner). They basically send Chrysler off into the sunset. Joe Biden will be doing car commercials within weeks.

This new Office of People Who Are Much Smarter Than You Are will not only run the auto industry, they will also run the energy industry, the financial services industries and the the healthcare industry.

I am somewhat intrigued to see how this will all play out. I am quite confident that, if brought to fruition, the plans for these industries will make Americans generally worse off than they otherwise would have been. What is hard to predict is the magnitude of the suffering induced (so small isn’t even noticed, or so large that people’s standard of living actually drops noticeably) or what the reaction to noticeable suffering might be (a commitment to “cure” still more market failures, or a realization that enough is enough).

My fear is that even if the failure is manifest and people are convinced that enough is enough, the current Republican Party lacks a message that could channel an opportunity into a deeper understanding of the dangers of the fatal conceit evidenced by this administration. My fear is that one set of conceits would be replaced by another.

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