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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Dammit. I thought she had finally disappeared, but no. She has to come back and ruin my nice night. After weeks of absence, she has a new kolumn up, and this time she's bashing Tim Pawlenty. Why? Well, you know why: he is sounding a bit too liberal for her tastes!

Wingnuttia Level: 5 (Picking and choosing of facts ahead)

Kersten and I agree on one thing: what Pawlenty is saying these days sounds a lot like election-year politicking. He may have said "The era of small government is over," but I don't think he's going to start governing like a rational person. He is still Timmeh, after all. He has a silver tongue (figuratively, not literally like Jebediah Springfield). But that doesn't mean we should trust him.

So Pawlenty's doubtful conversion aside, what's wrong with what he is saying? Well, according to Kersten, he was elected "because of his innovative vision of limited, accountable government." As if taking health care coverage away from thousands of people is "innovative," but whatever. Now, though, he sounds like Mike Hatch, that liberal ne'er-do-well. Heaven forfend!

See, for unthinking conservatives like Kersten, to doubt the free market one bit is heresy. So is doubting the never-questioned premise that government is always "the greatest concentration of power we face." No, government is always the problem, and the free market can do no wrong. And what happens when the government gives special tax cuts to oil companies and they have record profits? Err, umm....

Kersten picks a fight with ethanol, and to tell the truth, it's not the best thing to be defending. However, her argument that "ethanol is simply not cost-effective unless government props it up in a host of ways" shows the typical thinking of people like her: that the marketplace is always, automatically, guaranteed to be the best arbiter of value.

The problem with this, though, is that the marketplace ignores a lot of externalities (like the environment), and it also has a tendency to be incredibly short-sighted. Perhaps alternative fuels aren't cost-effective right now. But our oil supply is running out, and supply is so tight that wild price swings are becoming commonplace. At some point in the future oil won't be a cost-effective energy source, but waiting until the very day that alternative fuels become better from a pure market standpoint will be too late. We need the infrastructure in place beforehand, because a) we can't predict when it will be, and b) the transition may come so suddenly that to be caught flat-footed may lead to incredible economic problems. However, the short-term market can't deal with these issues. That's why the government sometimes needs to step in.

Or take that market that will never operate according to the wishes of the ivory-tower laissez-faire economists: health care. We have ample evidence that the health care market will not work. When it comes to cars, if you can't afford a BMW you buy a Kia and life goes on. When it comes to restaurants, if you can't afford La Belle Vie you go to McDonald's and life goes on. But few people are willing to, well, die because they can't afford the treatment they need. No matter how many times you patiently explain this to conservatives, though, they refuse to see it. Even if you draw pictures and use one-syllable words, they still think that all of our health care woes will be solved by the market! Brilliant!

I really have to wonder about people who literally worship at the altar of the Free Market, believing that it can never be wrong. The free market works for just about everything, but there are times when it doesn't. Pretending that these situations don't exist is not the mark of maturity, but to tell you the truth, conservatives aren't much for intelligence and maturity. These people also believe that sex doesn't exist, for example, and that WMDs in Iraq do. But I digress.

So no, I don't believe that Pawlenty has truly seen the light. But Kersten's attacks on him just show the ridiculousness of her own beliefs.


At 11:46 AM, August 24, 2006, Anonymous Big Daddy said...

And don't forget...it is always, ALWAYS those same die-hard free marketeers who run as fast as they possibly can to the big, bad government for a bailout when their precious free market fails them. They run their industries into the ground with greed and incompetence, then demand to suck at the public teat, all the while claiming that they're "only concerned about their employees."

At 12:35 AM, August 25, 2006, Anonymous Chris said...

What does Kersten think about stadiums?

I remember back in January last year, when Pawlenty started calling MinnesotaCare "welfare health care," some guy wrote a letter to the editor in the Strib wondering when the governor would start referring to "welfare ethanol" and "welfare stadiums."

At least Kersten may be (foolishly) consistent.


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