February 25, 2011

You Can't Override Reality with Ideology

I really admire people of conviction, even when they disagree with me. Folks like Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul are amazing people.

I dislike with equal fervor people whose values are based on the most recent polling data. The name John McCain immediately comes to mind.

But I’ve found that sometimes rigid ideology butts heads with reality. That’s when I move towards the latter.

I’m one of those who believes controlled substances should be legalized, regulated and taxed. Alcohol and nicotine cost our society far more in terms of healthcare, crime and human angst than any other drugs, yet they are legal because Prohibition does not work. Yet marijuana, the drug of choice for several generations, can get you an all-expenses-paid vacation at the Jackson Graybar Hilton.

As Mr. Spock would say, that is not logical. Or consistent.

I’m also of a mind to rid our society of handguns. All the data tells me we’d be safer without them. (There goes any future political career!). To me, the Second Amendment is about muzzle-loaders and the National Guard, not the right to have an armory in my basement.

But my ideology doesn’t fit reality.

My ideology simply is not practical at a state level. Anything short of national legalization of drugs would lead to cross-border insanity; the idea that we could actually clear out all the handguns even as a national priority is Utopian. (We have as many guns as we have people.)

That brings us to Governor Snyder’s desire to end state tax incentives and other bribes to bring targeted industries into the state. His argument – that state incentives constitute an unwarranted intrusion into what should be a free market –has some merit. In a perfect world, I’d agree with him.

The problem is that is totally unrealistic, just as Michigan can’t unilaterally ban handguns or legalize marijuana. We are in a global economy, competing not just with other states but with many nations.

The Governor’s call to end state subsidies to prime the pump for a battery industry may be ideologically consistent, but it is totally unrealistic and potentially horrific policy. We are competing with the world to be a center for one of the most critical technologies of the 21st century. South Korea and China have made batteries a national priority. The governments of those countries provide massive subsidies to nurture the new technology. As a result South Korea and China have a virtual monopoly on production.

Many states are battling as well to be home of the battery industry. We had a head start thanks to 1) the domestic manufacturing hub in metro Detroit, and 2) some vision on the part of the Granholm administration. It appears Gov. Snyder wants to piss away that early lead by moving to a laissez faire economic policy.

Relying on the “free market” to promote the industry in Michigan is recklessly unrealistic. The same holds true for the renewable energy industry where we are competing with one fiscal hand tied behind our backs.

When ideology trumps reality, we are in deep trouble. We need reality-based policy.

Rick Snyder is trained as an accountant, a profession based on numbers (reality) rather than ideology or “truthiness”. His views on state tax incentives may be ideologically consistent, but they defy reality.

It’s time for the Governor to “get real.”


  1. Oh My Curmudgy!
    Thanks for letting me keep my guns.
    I'm with you on dope...there isn't a better way to fry a few cells.
    I don't understand why you want to trade a non- renewable energy source (oil) supplied by unfriendly nations for the exact same thing.
    Lithium, supplied by a non friendly nation is non-renewable, and when the battery is exhausted, is high cost toxic waste.

  2. Batteries are a transition technology and they do have a significant downside. They are a step forward, but only a step.

    I'm really a big fan of fuel cells. They have no emissions (other than water vapor), they are fueled by hydrogen (extracted from water molecules), and the technology is proven.

    By the way, fuel cell technology was developed by the government (you know, those folks you think are incapable of doing any right!).

  3. Curmudgy-
    Batteries are a step backward. Expensive to produce-toxic waste. Transition-natural gas, cheap to retrofit engines and plentiful, especially in Michigan.

    Fuel Cells, YES.

    But don't tell Francis Bacon who devoted 15 years of his life nor the folks at General Electric that the government developed fuel cell technology and not them.

    People that work for private and public companies invent and supply cutting edge technology utilized by defense and NASA and specified by the various cabinet departments. That is unless you believe Al Gore and his invention of the internet.

    Government is in the business of developing laws not things.