thegreekdog wrote:Player - are you in favor of using government funds to ensure the existence of companies that have failed?
That have failed, no.
If not, why not?
If you are for some companies and not for others, where do you draw the line?
I am not for bringing back a failed company, no. In some limited cases , its OK for the government to support beginning industries, but with a lot of cautions and constraints. I am basically opposed to propping up older business, with very few exceptions for truly necessary industries that may not be able to compete with the low wages and such in a few other countries.
I don't see that as a government's role with only a few exceptions -- specifically to maintain a minimum level of necessary businesses and to help develop new technologies.
That was always the argument for steel, but that choice is now basically gone. The US does not really make steel any more. Is that a bad thing? I cannot say for sure, but I do know that a lot of products that were made from steel are now made from plastics, ceramics or even other metal combinations. Also, it seems less likely that we will face another conventional war, so the need to have a supply of steel for our "security" is probably less.
One area where we absolutely do need protection/investment is in agriculture, but absolutely nothing like current agriculture policies. In essence, I would protect the land, not the crops, and encourage sustainable production styles. Agriculture can be a natural "fit" to preserve wildlife and habitats. (using the "less productive" sections, etc. -- trying not to get too details, but I DO understand this industry). this IS necessary because no matter what happens in the future, being able to feed ourselves is key ot our ability to make independent decisions as a country. And no, while tech fixes may help and can modify needs to some extent, we cannot just rest our future on some esoteric potential possibilities. Any king of agriculture takes time to develope. We need to make sure we still have enough land to feed ourselves until we have other means of production fully and completely implementable on the scale needed to feed our country. (not the case now).
Timber lands would be dealt with similarly, but on a much larger and longer scale. In fact, our current National and State Forest systems actually do a decent job of ensuring that we have a continual supply of timber. In some cases the system was utterly abused, needs to be expanded or modified, but that model works for timber because the profit margin for timber production is so very, very low its almost impossible for private companies to hold land for long term timber production (most smaller companies bid on timber on land other people own. The bigger companies don’t always hold the land they log, either… but again, that is complicated). National Forests have evolved as a way to keep private companies in business harvesting timber without the heavy constraints of ownership. In exchange, people get to use the forest for various other uses, and the Forest Service can (since 1978, but most particularly in the recent decades) set aside some lands for non timber needs as well. (wilderness, stream protections, wildlife protection and recreation sites like campgrounds, swimming areas and such).
The problem with the “we need this industry” argument is not that it doesn’t truly exist, its that it is way too often used to mean just “protect OUR pocket books.” Saving the steel industry, back when steel was king is one thing, but preserving GM.. I don’t think its the same thing. I think the standard is legitimate, but we have to be far, far more critical of what we consider vital. One industry we maybe should do more to preserve (not sure, but its something I think worth debating as a country) might be ship building. We still do depend on shipping heavily, but there are very few active shipbuilders still around. Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter..
The other front where the government might need to prop up business is research and development. I have said this before, but most people just have no idea how many of the very big and very important developments in the past century have come originally or even nearly entirely, from government research. Lasers, freeze drying, the cure for malaria … these are just 3 small examples. The government doesn’t hold patents (something I would like to see changed). They do research and then give the patent to a private company or person doing similar research, by law.
Anyway, to find new technologies and new developments means a LOT of “wasted” effort, though I add in the caveat that in many, many cases, it is the “waste” that actually winds up being the true development. The whole field of chaos mathematics came about largely because of weather data, just as an example. Conservatives like to poke fun at research they consider a “waste”, but the real truth is that its just that kind of seemingly ridiculous and silly research that can sometimes lead to the real and true breakthroughs. This doesn’t mean that the bulk of government research needs to go in that direction, but it means that the government needs to carry that kind of research out. (if nothing else, some of these seemingly worthless research endeavors can be decent training grounds for scientists). The bulk of research, though should be directed at potential, real, very big problems. Right now, we truly MUST get a handle on global climate change. We may or may not be able to prevent it, but definitely need to be planning for the eventualities already beginning. We know our sources of oil are limited and held largely by nasty folks. It’s the height of stupidity that we have not already invested heavily into researching for alternatives. There are alternatives that I head about 30 years ago that have not even been tested or investigated yet. Hydrogen is one possibility, though it is looking as though that won’t have the potential it was hoped it might have (then again, there has been comparatively little research investment).
Anyway, once products are developed, there is a testing/experimental period where I am sometimes happy to see tax dollars invested… IF the result is something that will benefit us all.