Government Motors

When I was a kid, I loved seeing “MARK OF EXCELLENCE” near the GM logo, because those are my initials, too.

Unfortunately, the corporate logo now represents failure and political manipulation.

Most Americans were opposed to the bailout of General Motors because they thought, correctly, that it was a very bad idea for the government to get so deeply involved with running a particular company. So, the recent GM statements and commercial proclaiming that the bailout loans have now been paid in full, with interest, five years ahead of schedule, seemed to be a pleasant surprise.

Apparently not.

Shikha Dalmia wrote an op-ed in Forbes explaining that what has happened is not a sign of success, but rather a prelude to another loan with worse terms for taxpayers (and only a small part of the bailout is being repaid, with
another part).

Appropriately, it seems like there are already Truth-In-Advertising concerns being raised.

I hope this bailout does end in success for the company and taxpayers, but that doesn’t seem to be the way to bet. And, if it does happen, we’ll have to find out about it from a more reliable source.

UPDATE: Here’s Nick Gillespie of Reason.TV explaining this in a short video.

Meet The New Paternalism…

I always thought “Libertarian Paternalism” was an oxymoron. So, I was happy to see that this month’s Cato Unbound is about “Slippery Slopes and the New Paternalism“. I think Glen Whitman did a great job with his lead essay, and his follow-up to Richard Thaler’s disappointing, dismissive reply.

The other replies were at least a bit more responsive to Glen’s concerns, and I hope there’s even better debate to come.

I think the issue is important, because it seems superficially attractive to “architect” choices so that people will be more likely to get what they really want. But, other than trivial examples, what’s more likely is for regulations to be based on political pull, bias, and popular nannyism. And, even paternalistic rules that do improve things when enacted are likely to remain in place (or worsened) long after the facts on the ground change so that they will inhibit people from making their best choices.

And, the slippery slope is a serious danger, and Thaler’s lack of concern about it should make the rest of us even more concerned about it.

(By the way…Comments are working again. Thanks Dale!)

UPDATE: Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy had an excellent post on the subject today; pointing out that it isn’t just the objects of “libertarian paternalism” who have cognitive biases, but so do regulators and voters!

Also, I probably shouldn’t have even mentioned slippery slopes without directing people to Eugene Volokh’s great The Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope law review article.