Statists across NC and the nation are pointing to the BP Gulf oil spill as another form of “market failure” and are exploiting this tragedy in an attempt to demonize “free markets” and insist that government is the only entity we can trust to safely run economic activity such as oil drilling.
As Sheldon Richman points out in this column,however, the free market’s hand prints are nowhere near the BP incident.
Take the oil spill in the Gulf. Market opponents are having a field day. They say this finally demonstrates the need for government to run things. Private firms can’t be trusted.
But it looks more like government can’t be trusted. The central government is, in law and in fact, the owner of the part in the Gulf where BP drilled for oil. (I didn’t say it was the legitimate owner.) The owner leased its property to a private company, BP, with a bad safety record (though a good one for sucking up to the environmentalist establishment and bureaucrats) and issued permits for the drilling operation. It then failed to keep a sharp eye on what BP and subcontractors Transocean and Halliburton were doing to its property. That might have something to do with the fact that government regulators don’t have the sort of relationship to “their” property that real private owners do, and they can always be counted on to get friendly with those they regulate. The Minerals Management Service in the Interior Department has a special conflict of interest: It makes money off the drilling it permits and regulates. Thus it could benefit from decisions that are bad for the public.
So what failed here, the market or the State? The call isn’t even close. The free market was nowhere near the scene. It has an airtight alibi. It didn’t exist.