That Elusive Competence

Columnist Peggy Noonan, in writing of Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill, got this one right: “But Republicans should beware, and even mute their mischief. We’re in the middle of an actual disaster. When they win back the presidency, they’ll probably get the big California earthquake. And they’ll probably blow it. Because, ironically enough, of a hard core of truth within their own philosophy: When you ask a government far away in Washington to handle everything, it will handle nothing well.”

Well put. But I challenge Noonan’s premise that Republicans have a philosophy. They don’t. If they did, there wouldn’t be a tea party attempt to take over their party with some notion of principles and philosophy. Republicans have neither principles nor leaders — absolutely none at all — and for that reason, without radical reversals, will not take the presidency again any time soon — if ever. By default, they seemed poised to retake half or all of Congress, but are in the process of blowing that opportunity as well. It’s true that Obama is declining in popularity over the oil spill, and for the wrong reasons. Government, according to Obama and those who voted for him, is THE force for good and competence in society. Only government can create good, and only government can correct the disasters created by evil (anything private or for-profit, according to Obama supporters). Obama’s complete inability to fix the oil spill — indeed to have magically “regulated” (a never defined term) things in such a way that the oil spill could never have happened — is leading to some erosion of support beyond that which had already occurred. Stupid Republicans — Sarah Palin, and others — act like gleeful schoolchildren saying, “See, see! You can’t fix things either!” instead of using the whole disaster as an opportunity to point out what Noonan eloquently stated: The government that is expected to do everything will end up doing nothing.

An insightful reader of this column recently wrote in: “…It would be interesting to know how much of British Petroleum is actually controlled by British socialists.  In my work I am reminded daily how much the US banking ‘business’ is so utterly controlled by the government that the bankers don’t think or act like rational businessmen at all  — but as socialist stooges.  But when the banks do something stupid, capitalism gets the blame.” That’s an excellent point. In our mixed economy — or socialist-leaning economy as in Britain — the incentives are different. The high taxation and regulation gives a large business a sense of partial government ownership, even before nationalization takes place. If BP were given total ownership and control over its own industry, it would be easier to hold it fully responsible for its errors. Obama is merely showing his true colors. He wants government to get ALL of the credit for EVERYTHING that goes right in society. I have never once heard him state, or even imply, that the private sector does anything of value. Likewise, I have never heard him state or imply that government is ever a force for anything other than good and competence. Well, OK then. Big Government liberals now control essentially everything. They continue to dominate the media and academia, as they always have. They control every government regulatory agency, every Congressional committee and the entire White House. These aren’t just moderate Democrats, these are real big-time Big Government liberals. So — why no fix? In fact, how could an oil spill happen on their watch? They said regulation was the solution for everything.

America is an interesting place. In any other part of the world that has suffered through socialism or collectivism, people are well aware that such systems are never competent and never deliver the goods. They might persist in the false belief that such systems are moral — but they know socialism will never produce or create anything, much less manage what has already been created with any remote iota of competence. The Russians and eastern Europeans get this; much of Western Europe now gets this; the Chinese get this; but the arrogant liberals who totally run the U.S. government don’t get it at all. Obama is not only their leader, but the embodiment of this arrogant and torpid view.