Category Archive 'State Omnipotence'

17 Jun 2010

How the Gulf Oil Spill Undermines the Cult of Statism

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Anne Applebaum points out just how ridiculous Obama looks, as he plays King Canute and tries ordering the oil to stop flowing.

Here is the hard truth: The U.S. government does not possess a secret method for capping oil leaks. Even the combined wisdom of the Obama inner circle—all those Harvard economists, silver-tongued spin doctors, and hardened politicos—cannot prevent tens of thousands of tons of oil from pouring out of a hole a mile beneath the ocean’s surface. Other than proximity to the Louisiana coast, this catastrophe therefore has nothing whatsoever in common with Hurricane Katrina. That was an unstoppable natural disaster that turned into a human tragedy thanks to an inadequate government response. This is just an unstoppable disaster, period. It will be a human tragedy precisely because no government response is possible.

Which leads me to mystery: Given that he cannot stop the oil from flowing, why has President Barack Obama decided to act as if he can? And given that he is totally reliant on BP to save the fish and the birds of the Gulf of Mexico, why has he started pretending otherwise—why, in his own words, is he looking for someone’s “ass to kick”? I am guessing that there are many reasons for this recent change of rhetorical tone and that some of them are ideological. Of course, this is a president who believes that government can and should be able to solve all problems. Obama has never sounded particularly enthusiastic about the private sector, and some of his congressional colleagues—the ones talking of retroactively raising the cap on BP’s liability, for example, or forcing BP to pay for the lost wages of other oil company’s workers—are downright hostile.

A large part of the explanation is cultural, however: Obama has been forced to take on a commanding role in a crisis he cannot control because we expect him to—both “we” the media, and “we” the bipartisan public. Whatever their politics, most Americans in recent years have come to expect a strong response—an invasion, a massive congressional bill—from their politicians in times of crisis, and this one is no exception. We want the president to lead—somewhere, anywhere. A few days ago, the New York Times declared that “he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess,” and should have started “putting the heat” on BP much earlier—as if that would have made the remotest bit of difference. …

Paradoxically, “talking tough” about this oil crisis also makes both Obama and America look weak internationally—just as “talking tough” about Iran made the Bush administration look weak. Harsh rhetoric is fine if it reflects a real will to do something, a real plan of action, and the existence of a Plan B for when the first one fails. But when angry words—anti-BP, anti-British, anti-oil-company—reflect the absence of any alternative policy whatsoever, they just sound pathetic. It’s right for Obama to be concerned about the consequences of this disaster, but wrong—and dangerous—for him to pretend he is capable of controlling it. We should stop calling on him to do so.


Christopher Chantrill points out that conservatives have been too frequently playing along with liberal assumptions in criticizing Obama’s handling of the BP Oil Spill and predicts the myth of the ominpotent state will eventually collapse.

It is true that liberalism is cruel, corrupt, wasteful, and unjust. But one should never forget its delusion. The delusion is a simple one. It is a belief that government can be made rational and efficient. This delusion leads our liberal friends into disaster after disaster.

Liberals were shocked that President Bush failed to get everyone tucked up in bed in a couple of days after Hurricane Katrina. They knew that a rational and efficient government, run by people like them who believed in government, could do better.

Now President Obama is busy proving them wrong.

Unfortunately, conservatives aren’t helping. In pointing out the serious lapses in the president’s leadership qualities, we conservatives are missing the point. We are encouraging liberals in their delusion. Instead, we should remind everyone that of course a bunch of corporate bureaucrats, combined with a bunch of government bureaucrats, are going to be a bit off the mark. …

How does a religion collapse? During the Christianization of northern Europe, the monks would topple the idols of the pagan gods. See, they said, our true God is more powerful than your gods.

Is that how liberalism will come to an end? When the Keynesian idols are finally toppled? Most likely the end will catch everyone by surprise, like the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union.

Hat tip to the News Junkie.

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