Saturday, April 03, 2010


Obama and the Public Good

Driving home the other day, I happened to catch a few minutes of Rush Limbaugh. He was ranting about Obama's speech in Charlotte, N.C. Rush referred to Obama's words as "vitriol" but I'm not sure I agree on that part but Obama's words below are quite telling.
No company is going to make investments for a public good. None of you would expect a private company to fund our military or our firefighters. There are just some things that you can't do on your own, and the private sector is not going to do -- it's not profitable because if Bob was the guy who had to build the road, he'd have a whole bunch of other people driving on that road that weren't paying for it. So it's not a good investment for him.
Telling because every statement in it is a lie or, at best, betrays Obama's gross misunderstanding of how the world works.

Virtually every company's investment is for the public good. Individuals and companies identify products and services people want and determine if they can make a profit delivering those products and services. Virtually all of those are for the public good. Does not Proctor & Gamble serve the public good by providing high quality soaps, shampoos, detergents, food products, diapers, and more? Do not airlines serve the public good by providing fast, efficient transportation for the public?

The list goes on: pharmaceutical companies, food processors, mining companies, high tech industries... A company that doesn't make investments in products and services that provide for the public good doesn't survive. People only want products that they feel improve their lives in some way. While, occasionally, some of the products, such as cigarettes, end up being harmful, one can hardly claim that every government action, legislation or program has been nothing but beneficial. Companies make heavy investments in the public good because that is the road to success.

Private companies already fund our military and firefighters and police and lots of other government activities through the taxes they pay. In the past companies built entire cities. Ever wonder how Pullman, Illinois got its name?

If it's not profitable for a private company to build a road, why are companies worldwide doing it?
In little more than 12 months, beginning in late 2004, the following events occurred: A Spanish toll road company proposed to invest $7.2 billion to build the first leg of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), a major highway, rail, and utility corridor running north-south from Oklahoma to Mexico. A global consortium agreed to pay $1.8 billion to lease, toll, operate, and maintain the Chicago Skyway for 99 years. And an Australian toll road operator bought out a struggling public-private toll road in Virginia.
Private highways are common in Europe and Asia.

Bottom line: Obama is either a proficient bullshitter who gives little thought to his words and claims as long as he thinks they sound good and will convince people into believing what he says or he's a smooth talking ignoramus. Take your pick.

I think he does believe that nothing good comes from a private company.
I agree, even though the overwhelming preponderance of advancements come from the private sector.
Maybe there are some companies whose profit motives are well served by serving the public good, but these are problematic definitions here. I tend to see "the public good" as something different than "a market for a good or service."

I'm sure that the last 60 years of oil production on the Louisiana Gulf Coast served a "public good" to a lot of folks by providing jobs and cheap oil. Production unfortunately increased pollution, and not in a "global-warming-we're-all-going-to-die" kind of way, but a "petrochemicals-in-the-water-babies-drink" kind of way.

The infrastructure created by business and, to be fair - government, for petroleum extraction also rapidly sped up saltwater intrusion into coastal ecosystems, increasing erosion and subsidence in wetlands that support some of the strongest fisheries in the world in addition to mitigating storm surge from powerful hurricanes.

Private business, and to be fair-government, serving the "public good" by extracting and shipping petroleum, did not repair infrastructure problems once they had left areas because doing so would be costly.

The "public good" service they provided did not extend to cleaning up after themselves for the public unfortunate enough to live in affected areas, make their livings off the health of the fisheries and oyster beds, or who live in certain cities directly impacted by infrastructure failures.

And that is only one of the most costly and specific examples.
You make legitimate points, but government is not better. Ask the people in Oak Ridge, TN how well they cleaned up radio active waste from WWII. They were still finding stuff in the 1970s and 1980s.

One of the unfortunate aspects of government and private industry is unethical actions or unforeseen consequences. Government has the force of authority behind them on top of that. Consider unfair confiscation of goods under the RICO Act, no knock raids gone bad, corruption in government, etc and the list disadvantages is long.

Who could you more easily sue and win over, the government or a private company? People consistently win huge suits over companies, and often easily win out of court settlements. The government with no profit margin to worry over and very deep pockets can fight you more easily in court.

To try to limit the definition of "for the pubic good" to only government actions is erroneous. Plus, government often helps out private industry through eminent domain, and other actions because they see the activities of private industry as for the public good.

There's a market for health clubs, grocery stores, health care services, ad infinitum because these products and services are for the public good. Not all products and services are for the public good of course, such as dealing drugs or illegal wiretaps and unwarranted confiscation of property.
Who could you more easily sue and win over, the government or a private company?-DADvocate (5:31 PM)

Uh, the one without sovereign immunity from lawsuits?

I take it the "Georgia" Cousin Pat hails from ain't part of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Else, Cuz would have some grasp of the genuinely "most costly and specific examples" of "the 'public good' service" that only a government can provide.
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