Who was responsible for inventing the airplane and making it successful — government or the private sector? According to President Barack Obama’s energy secretary, the answer is obvious. “Government played an incredibly intimate role in all the technologies that led to prosperity in the United States,” he said on Tuesday, “and we must not lose sight of that fact.”
Speaking at a National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, Steven Chu admitted that entrepreneurs invented the airplane but claimed that government was responsible for its success. Had Congress not “allowed” private companies to deliver mail for the United States Postal Service, he said the technology could never have taken off.
Chu added that wartime necessity helped airplane development further — again, government activism.
It’s a curious argument — weakening a government monopoly; allowing the private sector to deliver mail amounted to public “support” for entrepreneurs while wars were a “stimulus” for aviation technology, even if they had a disastrous impact on nondefense industries.
Did Chu argue that the United States needed to wage more wars for the benefit of the defense industry? Of course not. Did he make the case for less government control in order to free the private sector from taxes and restraints and allow it to innovate and expand? Of course not.
The energy secretary cited the example of government involvement in aviation technology as an argument for not less interference from Washington but more — in order to create “green” jobs for people building solar panels and fuel efficient cars even if not enough Americans want to buy these products to make them profitable.
No matter the fate of similar public initiatives in countries as Denmark and Spain, where “green” policies destroyed more traditional jobs than they created new ones, the Obama Administration is determined to “win the future” with an agenda of state activism that is rooted in historical distortion.
(Researchers at Madrid’s King Juan Carlos University found that for every renewable energy job that Spain financed, 2.2 jobs were lost. In other words, nine jobs were lost in the broader economy for every four “green” jobs created there.)
It is hardly surprising given that this comes from the same man who advocated a ban on incandescent light bulbs because it took away “a choice that continue[d] to let people waste their own money.”
Chu’s rhetoric is emblematic of the government knows best mentality that defines the administration’s economic policy. Instead of letting the market place allocate resources according to the combined needs and wishes of every consumer and producer in the country, President Obama and his cabinet believe that “experts” in Washington DC can make better choices, whether it’s in health care, financial products or alternative energy.
It’s a notion that has been proven wrong time and again however yet it is probably responsible, to a considerable extent, for holding the recovery of the American economy back.