More proof that federal government programs are least effective.
As I've written here before, there are two Americas: One that works, produces value, and overcomes problems, and one that for the most part doesn't work, consumes wealth, and produces more problems than it solves.
The America that doesn't work was very much in evidence this past week, as the Obamacare roll out continued to be -- in Democratic Sen. Max Baucus' memorable phrase -- a "train wreck." Writing in The New Republic, John Judis observed that the Obamacare fiasco should make fans of activist government angry, because it will damage big government's brand for decades to come. Well, if you support big government because you think that politicians are more competent or honest than the rest of us, yes, it's a big bummer. Then again, if you really think so highly of politicians, you have more serious problems than that.
But while the biggest big-government project in a generation was stinking up the place last week, the America that works was doing considerably better. Although "energy independence" has been an official government policy for four decades, we're on the way to achieve that more in spite of, than because of, the federal government.
In his weekly radio address, President Obama more or less took credit for America's dramatic shift to becoming the world's largest energy producer, even as American carbon emissions dropped. But the headline provided by Investor's Business Daily was more accurate: "Obama: Domestic oil production surges despite my best efforts."
In fact, the federal government has limited drilling on federal land, and taken other steps to make oil production in America harder. But as Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman reports in his new book, The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, the changes -- horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" -- were brought about by a bunch of outsiders working on their own, without help from either the feds or from Big Oil.
Some wanted cleaner energy (natural gas, a major product of fracking, burns much cleaner than coal or oil, and the shift to fracked gas is the main reason for falling U.S. carbon emissions). Some wanted energy independence. And all of them wanted to make money. But by pushing these technologies over the course of a couple of decades, these "wildcatters" were able to do something that the federal government, despite programs ranging from synfuels to Solyndra, wasn't: They produced cheap energy and a big step toward energy independence.
Thanks to the fracking revolution, the air is cleaner, gas is cheaper, and petro-state dictatorships have less geopolitical influence. But this happened not as a result of some big-government program, but as the result of individuals staking their lives and fortunes on a risky venture, one that, as Zuckerman notes, made some rich but left others near bankruptcy.
The America that works -- based on entrepreneurship, risk and responsibility -- delivered as usual. The America that doesn't work? Well, it's delivering, too, in its usual fashion. Take note of the difference, for future reference.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is professor of law at the University of Tennessee and the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself. He blogs at InstaPundit.com.
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