Bill Murchison

The reason capitalism works and government doesn't is ….

Let's hold that consequential thought for a moment. Hats must come off first in memory of General Motors. Recollections of Engine Charlie Wilson stir -- Wilson, who, as GM president, took a public hammering when he ventured accurately that what was good for the country was good for GM "and vice versa." He didn't mean taxpayer-financed ownership and bureaucratic oversight. He meant profits and prosperity -- objectives the old GM, for all its faults, made ample and widespread.

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Charlie wouldn't know what he was looking at today if he saw his old company sporting government shackles.

President Obama is upbeat about the new GM he is helping to engineer. The President -- alas -- is full of beans when it comes to understanding free market economics. Perhaps only a product of the Ivy League would share his conviction that government control is good for you.

It is a conviction that has come to define the Obama economic policies, ponderous as they are, when it comes to the direction of affairs. The President is a decent speechmaker, but in economics, his oratorical exuberance can outrace his understanding of how entrepreneurs and their customers actually function.

The new government-owned GM, according to Obama, is ready for "a viable, achievable plan that will give this iconic company a chance to rise again." While they wait for it to happen, Americans should keep a tight grip on their wallets.

Who's running this show? Not the marketplace. The government -- a different enterprise altogether -- is running this show. The government represents collective judgment: the judgment of committees subject only occasionally to reproof for misreadings and mistakes. The marketplace is a great, surging beast, never at rest -- with hundreds of millions of noses, pairs of ears, sets of hands and arms. And brains – those, too. All these instrumentalities clamor for satisfactions of different kinds: looks, quality, style, durability, isolated or existing in shifting combinations.

The marketplace knows. The government knows nothing. Or, to the extent it knows anything, it knows the next election is coming. The marketplace foresees, the government maintains; the marketplace responds, the government snorts at the idea it might be up to something people don't want, or want at a different cost and on another timetable.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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