Wednesday, January 07, 2009

EMBRACING MY INNER GLENN REYNOLDS: Or why I think I'm becoming a fake libertarian. Two reasons:

1. Most of the posts on Hit & Run about the financial crisis just annoyed the crap out of me, especially anything having to do with the auto bailout. Seriously--in the midst of a global meltdown and after giving bajillions to the people who actually caused the meltdown you're against keeping our manufacturing sector alive? Is "Austrian" Randite for "Hooverite"?

Comments about how much people enjoyed their Toyotas were particularly hard to take. As if the quality of their product was anywhere near the biggest reason the Detroit 2.5 are in trouble. (Or 1.5 as it turned out, Ford obviously put a priority on managing their company over managing the Lions.)

Sometimes I think I am still libertarian, but I think the unit of competition should be the nation-state, not individual companies. I mean do you think Japan or Germany would let their automakers fail? Of course not--they'd get in there and muck around because they know their national prosperity is at stake. And yet it's a big debate in this country. Maybe our nation-state needs more government intervention in business and such to stay competitive with the other nation-states, you know? It certainly works for the rest of the world.

Other time I think the big gaping hole in libertarian economics is there is no conception of finance--that is, there is no conception of how money actually works, I guess because it's a practical, pragmatic field that you can't just yell "GOLD STANDARD!!!" at and explain anything. The only libertarianish thinker (she was in Reason once) I've enjoyed during this whole megadebacle is Yves Smith, who was in the big money business and is absolutely nondogmatic about this stuff. More libertarians need to get into the sausage-making business, I feel like, even if they become less pure by their exposure to the messy way things actually get done.

2. I am completely on board with government intervention to bring down the BCS, like the Utah AG is trying to do right now. The BCS is as clear an example as I can think of of the free market reaching the worst outcome possible. And yet you hear people say "if the government gets involved think of how bad it could get!!!!!!" How could it be worse than what we have right now? We have the worst of all possible worlds right now. It's not really a poll-based system anymore, since the final poll isn't allowed to vote anyone other than whoever wins the BCS Championship as number one. You can still split a championship but only if you're somebody who's on the AP's radar from the beginning, those dudes are not going to say to themselves "you know what, Utah? We were wrong all along" (even though they were wrong all along, of course) and give them half the title. And it definitely isn't a playoff. I remember reading somewhere that the BCS sort-of made sense coming out of the late 90s when it was always clear who #1 and #2 were (not sure if this was true or not, but it's a nice idea.) But now? No sense whatsoever. There is no legitimacy in a 1-2 matchup today, but especially this year.

And yet ESPN has bid to broadcast this system through 2014? Are you serious? Five more years of anticlimax? Of national media peoples pretending anything was settled on the field? Ugh, and ugh again. The people in charge of college football have shown no inclination to change their ways, and they're not going to, even if everybody's (on ESPN) favorite coach, Pete Carroll himself, thinks they're full of it. The conference commissioners are in charge and will be in charge until somebody takes power away from them. The networks and advertisers don't seem like they want the power, even though they have the money. (I've never understood why no one has tried to set up a competing system yet. Fox gets outbid for the BCS? Okay--flash some cash at the non-BCS schools, try to peel off a few BCS programs for added legitimacy--USC can't be happy about Rose Bowl after mindnumbing Rose Bowl--instant Counter-BCS! Or playoffs even.) The government is the only entity capable of rectifying this situation. And antitrust seems a perfect way to do it, as we really do have teams excluded from championships based purely on what conference they play in. But no matter how they do it, they're the only ones who can.

And so my libertarianism gets faker. Next I'll be writing sympathetic portrayals of how THE LEFT!!!! destroyed poor Alberto Gonzales. But I'm not a Republican!

(Sorry no links in the above, you need a blog that updates more than twice a year for that kind of attention to detail.)