Wednesday, July 13, 2011
NRA president David Keene writes a pretty good editorial lambasting former Texas oilman and current suckler at the government teat, T. Boone Pickens, for his transformation into a government looter. He even gets dangerously close to naming the reason for that transformation:
[W]hy would a man who spent the better part of his life competing within the market suddenly develop a business model that depends not on consumers who want to buy his product but on a government that can force them to do so? Perhaps it's because, as Willie Sutton replied decades ago when asked why he robbed banks, "Because that’s where the money is." Americans used to get rich by providing consumers something they wanted, but in today's economy, wealth is just as likely to come to those who produce schemes that appeal to politicians.In other words, T. Boone Pickens doesn't know or doesn't care about the difference between making money (by offering people something they want) and getting money (by having government thugs take it from them by force).
(If there is one thing I don't like about this piece, it's that it refers to people as "making" money off ethanol: Given that ethanol production for fuel would not be so common in a free economy due to its inefficiency, the vast majority are just getting money off it.)
Pickens is, furthermore, apparently oblivious to the fact that the very premise behind his scheme is quite likely to backfire in the long run, given that he is rich and many government officials, including the President, see him and anything he has in excess of bare subsistence as government property. The name of this short-range, amoral attitude is pragmatism, and it can be briefly summarized as the philosophical idea (held explicitly or implictly) that philosophical ideas don't matter.
T. Boone Pickens fooled lots of people, including Keene, when he used to promote fiscally conservative causes. In truth, he just saw that as the most expedient way at that time to get money. Now, the most expedient way to get money is to get it with government "help", so that's what Pickens will do now.
Pickens clearly sees that what the culture and political climate will reward has changed. It speaks volumes that, rather than fight to improve this situation, he has chosen to go along with it. Government "help" -- that is, anything it does apart from protecting individual rights -- always involves some form of theft or violation of individual rights. It is incredible to me that Pickens, himself an individual, sees nothing wrong with this situation.
I guess that's what pragmatism can do to a man.