T. Boone's Pickin'

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.

-- CAV


Vigilis said...

Gus, a more disturbing conclusion might be that T. Boone's preference for selling out consumers is based upon retaining the vast wealth he has already amassed.

People tend to forget that socialism provides a handy disguise for government favoritism.

With the exception of eastern block countries, wealthy industrials are ither nobility or treated as such.

In case anyone is fooled by the rhetoric of "higher taxes for the rich", their remedy will always be the latest loopholes for which they must hire a high-priced tax attorney to avail.

I can guarantee that any new tax legislation will include at least 50 pages of arcane escape clause for countryman like T. Boone.

As usual, it would be decades before the public at large ever becomes aware of such hidden secrets. ---Good old lawyer-political complex!

Gus Van Horn said...

Socialism isn't just a disguise for government favoritism: It IS government favoritism.

Regarding higher taxes for the rich and loopholes, both are true, and the loopholes, deductions, and exceptions that make the tax code impossible for anyone to follow are determined by (and provoke) the results of pressure group warfare, an inevitable result of the government running the economy.

While I don't deny the role of opportunistic lawyers in all of this, I think the emphasis is mistaken, since lawyers would be necessary in any society with rule of law.

kelleyn said...

The only time I have been proud of my fellow voters here in California was when the Pickens Plan was walloped, getting a total of about eight or nine percent of the vote.

BTW, for anyone who has an hour to spare, I highly recommend Dr. Tara Smith's talk The Menace of Pragmatism.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for sharing the rare, pleasant political news from California.

I second your recommendation. I seem to recall Smith giving a preliminary version of the lecture back when I lived in Houston, and I think it became an article in TOS as well.

Michael said...

its the altruism Gus moreso than the pragmatism me thinks.

Gus Van Horn said...

Altruism motivates the programs that Pickens hopes to profit from, sure.

But what if he -- and numerous other businessmen -- weren't ALSO behind such programs out of pragmatism. There wuld be actual opposition to them, now, and it would have started long ago.