Arnold Kling  

The Player and the Referee

Heckman on Inequality... Unions and Productivity...

Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes,

neither environmentalists nor Brazilian politicians have raised concerns about exploiting oil in the waters off the Brazilian coast.

it is also worth noting that the Brazilian government has a 58% controlling stake in Petrobras's voting shares and 32% of its total shares.

...In 1995, the British government sold its final remaining shares of British Petroleum, which had been largely privatized throughout the 1980s. In October 1996, a British member of the European Parliament, Socialist Richard Howitt, began harassing BP for alleged environmental and human-rights violations in Colombia. Had the company suddenly gone from being a model citizen to a murderous, contaminating corporation?

If what you want is more oil drilling, then it is better for government to be a player-referee than to just be the referee. In general, however, I think it is not a good idea to combine the referee function with the player function.

When you combine being a player with being a referee, the game is corrupted. That's the way I see it. The way a progressive looks at it, the more the referee gets involved, the better the game gets.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (4 to date)
Floccina writes:

One of the local electric companies is owned by the city. They have always given them an exemption to the local air pollution laws.

Stephen W. Stanton writes:

There are two basic differences between progressives and conservatives/libertarians:

1. Progressives believe the ends justify the means. They're OK with almost anything that the government controls. To Conservatives & Libertarians, the means ARE the ends. Separating the player & referee functions is a prerequisite for a fair game, which is all we want.

2. Conservatives/Libertarians are pessimists when it comes to agency costs, human nature, and effectiveness of government policy. Sometimes we are surprised by selfless politicians (Reagan) and effictive government programs (The Fed).

Progressives are optimists when it comes to agency costs and human nature. They see self-serving capitalism as a correctable flaw in humans. Greed is bad, and wealth is a sign of guilt. Government folks are above greed and are doing the Lord's work.

TGGP writes:

In James Q Wilson's Bureaucracy (which I review here) he points out that private government contractors are much more liable to comply with regulations than government agencies themselves. Bureaucracies have an inertia all their own so it is harder for the government to push them.

David N. Welton writes:

There are interesting differences between different political groups, that cause them all to commit various errors. I do not view your straw man, "The way a progressive looks at it, the more the referee gets involved, the better the game gets." as a particularly insightful look into those differences though, and think you have the experience and intelligence to do much better.

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