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Obama uses the C word


In his speech to the Chamber of Commerce, President Obama said:

America’s success didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen by accident. It happened because [of] the freedom that has allowed good ideas to flourish, that has allowed capitalism to thrive; it happened because of the conviction that in this country hard work should be rewarded and that opportunity should be there for anybody who’s willing to reach for it.

Has he ever used the word capitalism in a complimentary way or even a neutral way? I’ve not heard it. But the praise for freedom didn’t last long. From there he spoke as a partisan of government programs and spoke about all the wonderful things they’ve done for us.

Early drug companies argued the bill creating the FDA would “practically destroy the sale of … remedies in the United States.” That didn’t happen. Auto executives predicted that having to install seatbelts would bring the downfall of their industry. It didn’t happen. The President of the American Bar Association denounced child labor laws as “a communistic effort to nationalize children.” That’s a quote. None of these things came to pass.

If the FDA did lead to destruction, the results would be unseen. The destruction would be about the cures and medicines that we do not have, not whether the ones we do have are marketable. As for seatbelts, they are only one cost among many – and, again, we do not know what kind of safety innovations that regulations have prevented – but it is a fact that overall government involvement has contributed mightily to the downfall of the industry, and downfall is a pretty good word actually. Finally, when it comes to child labor, the social costs of keep kids locked in government classrooms instead of doing productive work are incalculable. Few laws are as ridiculously outdated as these, and, in any case, these laws were passed in the New Deal to help shrink the existing workforce and drive up wages, not help children. And hey, let’s reprint this great speech by the ABA head!

And what is he talking about all these ancient fundamentals in any case (drug regulation began in 1848!) when government regulations comes in daily floods, with a thicket that grows more complex and costly by the day? Obama says that regulation hasn’t killed industry. Well, true enough since most regulation is in fact pushed by the largest industries as a means of imposing costs on smaller firms and startups. Regulation doesn’t kill industry; it cartelizes it. Most of the costs are of the unseen type.

What’s wrong here is his whole theory of the glory of government, that it is somehow the key to making our lives better. For example, he says that it is thanks to government that “a typical fridge now costs half as much and uses a quarter of the energy that it once did — and you don’t have to defrost, chipping at that stuff.” Are we really supposed to believe that private industry has no interest in lowering costs or increasing efficiency, that without government, private enterprise would never improve products? Besides, every consumer knows to watch out for any appliance that has “energy efficient” stamped all over it; it usually means that it doesn’t work.


Contact Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Research. He is author of It's a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes and Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo. Send him mail.

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