though well-meaning, government usually makes things worse

The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby uses the examples of ethanol and sub-prime mortgages to drive home the point which drove my retreat to conservatism: More often than not, government’s efforts to “do something” about a problem usually makes it worse. Plus, it often creates problems no one even thought about.

Trapped in a no-win situation entirely of the government’s making, lenders could only hope that home prices would continue to rise, staving off the inevitable collapse. But once the housing bubble burst, there was no escape. Mortgage lenders have been bankrupted, thousands of subprime homeowners have been foreclosed on, and countless would-be borrowers can no longer get credit. The financial fallout has hurt investors around the world. And all of it thanks to the government, which was sure it understood the credit industry better than the free market did, and confidently created the conditions that made disaster unavoidable.

Congress and the president’s decision to sextuple the ethanol requirements for oil actually has been found to increase CO2 emissions, as well as jacking up the price of corn and, consequently, grocery bills.

Reasoning that if a little ethanol is good, a lot must be better, Congress and the Bush administration recently mandated a sextupling of ethanol production, from the 6 billion gallons produced last year to 36 billion by 2022.But now comes word that expanding ethanol use is likely to mean not less CO2 in the atmosphere, but more. Instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline by 20 percent – the estimate Congress relied on in requiring the huge increase in production – ethanol use will cause such emissions to nearly double over the next 30 years.

He closes with a quote from Mark Twain, one of my favorite philosophers. If we’d listened more to him, we could have avoided many of the biggest problems our nation faces.

“No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe,” warned Mark Twain, “while Congress is in session.”

Mark Twain was a humorist, but that was no joke.


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