Policy Pet Peeves (or the political cost of the hidden welfare state)
(cross-posted from my blog)
One of my longstanding pet peeves is that everyone in the US pretends we don’t have an “industrial policy” because that implies naughty state intervention in certain sectors. But of course we have lots of naughty state intervention in certain sectors, we just don’t do it even notionally for any good reason. We prop up the single family homebuilding industry and the automobile industry (even before the bailouts). We prop up certain agricultural sectors. We favor big business over small. Now we’re massively propping up one skimmer industry – the financial industry – and are about to prop up another skimmer industry – health insurance.
This is actually related to one of my long-standing pet peeves, which is that everyone in the US pretends like we don’t have heavy government intervention in the economy, when in fact we do, but it’s in the form various tax breaks and incentives, and effectively hidden from plain sight. In a lot of cases, the aim of liberals isn’t necessarily to massively expand the reach of government as much as it is to add some intentionality and rationality — as well as make explicit — the ways in which wealready intervene in the economy (health care reform is a perfect example of this, I think). Of course, the concealed nature of our welfare state is the exact thing which makes it incredibly easy to demagogue liberal efforts to expand it; for the average American, an attempt to make spending explicit looks exactly like an attempt to massively expand the scope of spending.