Who’s in charge?

David Brooks reminds us of our deep schizophrenia as a nation when it comes to actually doing things. By “things” I mean corporeal, actual things. Like plugging an oil leak 5,000 feet down in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil leak is a disaster, man-made, and will, in the fullness of time, stop. Frantic efforts now by those who know something about the oil-drilling business (BP), and hysterical chicken-without-heads running around by those who know nothing about the oil-drilling business (Obama &Co.) will, one way or another, solve the problem. Mostly BP, prodded by government threats of criminal lawsuits and the entire panoply of political and financial pressures brought to bear by government lackeys.

The core problem? As Brooks writes,

At some point somebody’s going to have to reach a national consensus on the role of government. If this disaster teaches anything, it is that we are a venturesome, entrepreneurial society. We rely on corporations like BP to bring us energy. At the same time, it is clear that even well-meaning corporations sometimes take shortcuts when it comes to controlling pollution and protecting worker safety.

So we want government to regulate business. We want regulation to be strong enough to reduce risk but not so strong as to stifle innovation. We want regulators to work cooperatively but not be captured by those they monitor.

Obama and his minions are quite good at blaming others, especially the Bush administration. In this instance, there may be a grain of truth, insofar as the Bushies always were tight with the Oil Bidness down in Texas. The central question, however, is not answered by assigning blame: who should be in charge?

I’d put my money on having industry in charge of things that soft-hands government types know little about. There’s also the question: what if our government had gone all-out to encourage oil and natural gas development in places like ANWR and closer-in offshore fields? Perhaps BP would not have had to gone so far out in the Gulf and had to drill to 5,000 feet? Just asking.


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