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Plot spoiler: it will fail

08 Feb 2023 | News Roundup

Once upon a time The Economist would have derided writing like: “The idea is that, with government action, America can reindustrialise itself, bolster national security, revive left-behind places, cheer up blue-collar workers and dramatically reduce its carbon emissions all at the same time.” But now instead it merely shrugs and says “For better or worse, Mr Biden’s blueprint for remaking the economy will change America profoundly” and “Mr Biden is taking an epoch-making political gamble.” Except a gamble normally has some chance of paying off, however slight, and epoch-making has to make a epoch, or at least an era or something. Now we have to pretend that no overhyped politicians’ plan to redesign reality ever just fizzled out leaving only a pile of debt and some charred hopes behind.

They maintain a pose of detachment:

“It is the country’s most ambitious and dirigiste industrial policy for many decades. In a series of articles beginning this week, The Economist will be assessing President Joe Biden’s giant bet on transforming America.”

And in a flicker of their previous elegant skepticism they do ultimately allow that:

“A giant plan that has so many disparate objectives does not simply succeed or fail. Its full consequences may not become clear for many years. However, you do not have to be Ayn Rand to question whether the government is up to managing such an ambitious set of projects.”

Then they emphasize that they are not Ayn Rand by outlining three things that would have to happen for it to work that, even though they are not going to happen might somehow happen, namely “the effort going into boosting domestic industry needs to be matched by a sustained programme of trade diplomacy” and “subsidies should tilt towards technologies that are not yet commercially viable, such as new types of nuclear reactor and carbon capture and storage” and “to build new subsidised infrastructure, America needs reform of its permit laws, perhaps with a federal law that supersedes state and local concerns.”

OK, to be fair, the probability of the government dumping money into subsidies that are “not yet commercially viable” is pretty high. The others, not so much. And again the old reflexes reappear with the caution to “be under no illusions, it is audacious to believe that the way to cope with three problems which are too hard to tackle separately is to deal with them all at once.” Audacious. Or, we might say, dim-witted. Just so they don’t get totally goggly-eyed.

Oh wait. They did. They also invite three unbiased White House officials to tell their readers “the Inflation Reduction Act… benefits the world—as well as America”. And while The Economist might believe that when politicians talk things happen, that “Biden’s blueprint for remaking the economy will change America profoundly”, we give the last word here to the Manhattan Contrarian:

“Even as the impossible dream of a wind/solar-powered economy collapses everywhere it is tried, the U.S. federal government blindly pushes forward with hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds to subsidize wind and solar generation and battery storage. It would be bad enough if those huge sums were merely wasted. But in fact, they will not just be wasted, but will also contribute to vast destruction of our functioning and inexpensive energy infrastructure, and they threaten to leave people impoverished and freezing in the dark. A government-wide crusade throughout the federal bureaucracy uses every regulatory trick in the book to hinder, hamper, and suppress the fossil fuel energy that actually keeps the heat running and the lights on. The world has gone completely mad.”

Well, not us. But because we cling with grim tenacity to what’s left of our sanity, we know exactly what he means.

7 comments on “Plot spoiler: it will fail”

  1. What appears to be the problem is an epidemic of lack of humility on the part of politicians. Put any politician in a position of power and they begin to think that they must be earth-shattering geniuses who know precisely how to reshape society, and that every plan they conceive will result in a happy, prosperous nirvana.
    Every president/prime minister should have a sign on their desk: "Are you sure this is a good idea, you dummy?"

  2. In previous generations, without exception anywhere in the world, and regardless of the form of government, politicians limited their aspirations to the limit of their political reach. This may have included whatever overseas possessions they had, but that was it. Any extra-border jaunts were usually called 'war'.
    Nowadays, any regional politician - regional, mark you - seems to completely believe that their twee, ridiculous policies will apply across the globe, and affect territories, polities and peoples their indigenous home population will have scarcely heard of. But hey, 'curing'the climate is so much easier than addressing serious problems at home like health, transport, education, community, tax, infrastructure, social policy, or whether or not the trains run on time.....what unbridled arrogance, entirely unsupported by any evidence of previous achievement. It's getting worse, and very quickly now, thanks to self-imposed legal obligation to act, a great deal of damage is going to be sustained. God preserve us all, because your elected representative certainly won't.

  3. The Manhattan Contrarian has noted the lack of a successful pilot implementation. Can we take the entirety of the IRA bill and offer it to California and sit back and watch?

  4. Given the name of the Bill and the purpose to employ leviathan to stimulate and "on-shore" the economy while attempting to turn down the planet's thermostat (based on an reinforced but unproven hypothesis) all with borrowed or digitally created currency while the developing word is developing by theoretically pushing the thermostat the other way, I would suggest that Orwell had a hand in naming it. When the rent seeker's orgy is over, the climate will continue doing what it does and anyone holding US dollars will be poorer.

  5. Roger, let's hope the next Prime Minister has a sign on his desk saying, "Don't just sit there, undo something."
    Lee, our esteemed politicians did not sign up to be plumbers. Infrastructure isn't sexy enough for those who are intent on saving the planet.

  6. Heartening though it is to see the name of author and philosopher Ayn Rand invoked without a snigger, one is overcome with gratitude that the author of 'Atlas Shrugged' did not live to see her every dystopian prediction repaid with interest.

  7. These people do it for money, influence, and power over others. The trouble is about half of the people in developed countries are the "others" and apparently they would give them more of these things at this very moment, if they could find a way.

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