Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Obama Will Stop Mean Corporations From Stealing All Our Jobs

Megan McArdle:
Gack. Now Obama is ranting about how he's going to make the corporations give us super fuel-efficient cars, find awesome new sources of oil, make renewable energy affordable, and invent a really delicious fat-free ice cream. However did we manage to get through the first 200 years without Barack Obama to beat some progress out of the corporations that have been holding us back?
That's funny, I was just wondering the same thing about Hillary...

1 comment:

thinking said...

Actually raising fuel efficiency standards for cars is a great idea.

If the US had done this a decade or so ago, the US car manufacturers would be in far more competitive shape. As it is they are lagging behind the Japanese once again as gas prices hit record highs.

As for new energy initiatives, why not invest in those?

Sure the market is still supreme, but govt can play a role in some cases.

Consider a few examples where the govt has been instrumental in fostering development of new technologies and industries:

1) The internet was a Dept of Defense initiative.

2) The space program. Sure we have some early efforts at privatization of space travel, and those are great. But they would not exist without the decades of intensive investment by our govt. I mean, really, what venture capitalists or banks would have committed to a decade long, multi billion dollar investment with no realistic hope for profits for several decades at best? And all this with substantial risk to the lives of those charged with testing the new technology.

3) Aviation technology. Early airplane technology was largely developed for military use funded by govts. It was only after this that commercial aviation took off.

4) Nuclear energy. Again, pioneered by intensive govt investment.

5) Medical advancement. Sure private industry has performed remarkably well, but govt has funded some very key efforts as well.

Sometimes American corporations are too fixated on short term quarterly profits to invest in new industries that require substantial and intense investments up front with no hope of profitability for several years. This is where govt can play a constructive role.

Now I do commend a company like Toyota whose chairman announced a while back that he would commit to producing a whole new fleet of affordable high mileage vehicles, even if this meant a hit to short term profits. But most companies are not that farsighted.

It truly is time for a change.