Sunday, May 16, 2010

It must be the initials

A reader, with much more eclectic reading habits than mine, called this to my attention:
Wouldn’t it be better to occasionally clean up an oil spill than to become a socialist country without individual freedoms and private property rights?

[sustained hysterical laughter]

Sorry. That was Katie Kieffer.

Dear (other) Katie. Katie exudes an “I’m a high school cheerleader and I’m a role model” kind of charm, but when it comes to a discussion of economics, Katie is just a data point in the proof of how easy the internet has become to use.

I’ve got some bad news for Katie. BP is a socialist company. There is not the remotest chance that BP is going to cover all of the cost of the Gulf spill. None.

The fact that BP was going to try to weasel out of its responsibility for the spill came early, when it tried to sign up shrimpers and fishermen in Louisiana to help with the clean up but only if they agreed not the sue BP:

NEW ORLEANS, May 2 /PRNewswire/ -- This Sunday afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, commercial fisherman George Barasich stepped forward asking for emergency relief from a federal court to stop British Petroleum, plc ("BP") from forcing the volunteer corps of oil-spill responders to enter into onerous and one-sided "Master Charter Agreements" ("MCA") which will seriously compromise the existing and future rights and potential legal claims of these volunteers.  Barasich is President of the Commercial Fisherman's Association, Inc.

When you want other people to pay for your mess, Katie, that’s a form of socialism. In fact, it is a loathsome kind of socialism: privatize the profit, but socialize the cost or the risk.

The energy companies are especially good at this. Want us to build new nuclear power plants? Well, okay, so long as we’re not responsible for all the damage if the entire eastern seaboard becomes, like, radioactive. Or, of course we’ll build a new coat-fired electrical plant, but don’t expect us to account for all of the additional asthma patients.

Or, as in the case of the BP spill in the Gulf, sure we’ll drill for oil, but don’t expect us to cover the cost of the livelihoods we ruin or the tourism industry we crush. It’s a cost of doing business; thanks for helping!

Perhaps Katie could interview the shrimpers and the fishermen about BP’s “freedoms and private property rights.”

Sometimes, it is even appropriate to socialize risks in order to achieve a — are you ready? — social goal, like having enough energy to run the economy, or even trying to make the population more healthy. Maybe it is appropriate to risk turning, say, the Carolinas into a radioactive wasteland for a thousand years so that people in Florida can run their air conditioners. Or having shrimp sell for $50 a pound so we can have cheaper gasoline.

But let’s at least have an adult discussion about it, rather than sloganeering bullshit.

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