01 April 2009

Now This is Too Much Government

I am a moderate liberal, not a conservative or socialist. Conservatives believe that markets always work and big companies are better to be trusted than big government. Socialists want economic equality and trust big government more than big business. A moderate liberal - as I define it - thinks that government and business need each other as checks on excess and both need to be regularly and seriously questioned by the angry - or even just curious - masses who will otherwise become tools of these institutions. Conservatives believe that individuals have to make it on their own and socialists believe that the individual is merely a product of the state. We liberals believe that the role of government is to provide opportunities (e.g., health care, education, and well regulated markets) for the individual because no one can make it on their own but the individual should nonetheless be free to define his own life. Not the controlling government of socialists or the abandoning government of conservatives but, instead, a government that enables individuals.

One of the problems with being a moderate liberal is that one can't simply say that government or private sector is the solution. For me, the answer is "it depends." Markets fail and we need to intervene at times (for instance, the market for educating children living in poverty is almost nonexistent and we need the government to step in with money), but markets are generally the best way to allocate scarce resources (children and their parents should have choices about educational philosophy and schools and these schools should thrive or fail based on how well they shape and/or meet demand).

So, when it comes to CEOs and the power they should wield, I think that the current power structure is tilted towards CEOs. Someone needs to intervene. I'm not exactly a conservative on this matter of leaving companies to behave as they wish. But I don't think that Obama - or his staff - have any uniquely qualifying abilities to choose the CEO who'll enable an automobile company to prosper. For me, the notion of Obama and company making the decision to oust GM's CEO Wagoner is the low point in his presidency.

What is the quip? You can trust a man who knows his limitations? If Obama is now pretending to have expertise in corporate management, he's certainly failed that test.


ThomasLB said...

Obama hasn't said who he wants to be the new CEO at GM. Maybe I should send in my resume. Do you think they're going to be really strict about those "qualification" thingies?

Seriously, though, I think the union should buy it and run the company themselves. GM stock is really cheap right now, so it should be feasible. Socialism is about the workers owning the means of production, so it would make a nice real-world test case, to boot.

Big Al said...

Ron: agree 100% that our POTUS overstepped in ousting the head of GM. I'd rather have seen it where Obama said, "You want more money, eh? Here's what we need before we give you more: a biz plan that not only shows how you plan to use the funds, but also in what timeframe you'll be repaying it. And the plan has to be incremental. We cannot and will not give out all the funds in one fell swoop. Your plan needs to have short-term success metrics showing progress with the initial small investing." Whoever is going to be the new GM head needs to confront Obama head on and say, "Beg your pardon Mr. President, but let's agree on one thing: I won't tell you how to run the United States if you won't tell me how to run GM. I want to work with you, not FOR you."

ThomasLB: twould indeed be interesting to consider the Union buying/running GM. My question would be if the Union has strong-enough Leadership and Business Acumen to have unanimous Union member support while Leading in the right direction for GM to recover. Maybe GM bankruptcy wouldn't be such a bad thing after all. 'Course I'm not a bond holder so I can say the 'B' word without feeling like I'm going to have a heart attack.

Lifehiker said...

Waggoner had his chance to scare the stakeholders into submission. He failed, and the bankrupcy finale was a sure thing. His ouster, and the 60-day deadline, is GM's last chance. I'm not optimistic.

Somebody will pick up the pieces of GM and make something out of it. I'm sure the company has some things worth continuing, but its unbelievably excessive liablities are not. They are as overvalued as Miami real estate, and Waggoner had a lot to do with how they came to be that way.

Anonymous said...

GM will end up in the same place (bankruptcy court) that they would have been prior to the billions of dollars invested/loaned by the government, which is you and me. Advice was given many months ago by many reputable business leaders that they should file for bankruptcy protection. A lesson of the wisdom of government involved in businesses but it has all been an experiment as we go. Throw a bowl of spaghetti against the wall and usually at least one noodles sticks. Too bad a mess is made in the process.

nunya said...

Call me whatever you want, unregulated global capitalism is a tick that fed so much it is exploding.

Big Al said...


You bring up a very interesting point about the explosion of global capitalism. My question is: how can it legally be regulated?

It seems that every time a regulation is put in place, folks already have a bypass for it.

nunya said...

Big Al,
It seems that every time a regulation is put in place, folks already have a bypass for it.

Yup, I guess it all depends on who the judges are playing golf with.

I'm pretty cynical, eh?

Big Al said...


Cynical? No.
Realistic? Yes.

Now excuse me but I have to leave to meet my tee time. :-)