When Palin Agrees With Olbermann

Ilana Mercer, June 12, 2010

Private property rights in waterways, or riparian rights in water that abuts private property—these are the best protectors of the ocean and of other state-controlled expanses of water ~ilana

Republican reaction to the president’s reaction to the crude gushing in the Gulf of Mexico is a measure of how serious the GOP is about checking the spread of big government. Every time I turn around, there’s a Republican insisting that  the Big “O” take over where Big Oil has (allegedly) left off.

This Sarah Palin has been demanding as loudly as James Carville; Congresswoman Michele Bachmann as urgently as clown Keith Olbermann. The consensus on both sides of the political aisle seems to be that where British Petroleum has failed to stop the spread of the oil slick, the president will prevail. If I didn’t know Republicans better, I’d think they were making political hay out of the Deepwater Horizon leak, now in its fifty second day.

Fault the president for failing to speak directly to BP CEO Tony Hayward. Or, for heading to the golf course instead of the Gulf Coast. In certain respects, however, Obama’s “lackadaisical” approach is not all bad. Think of how quick the POTUS would be to hammer the final nail in the coffin of American capitalism if he and the FLOTUS didn’t like to live it up a little.

Baiting Barack with a takeover is cruel—to all of us. The meddlers got what they cried for, and then some. Obama will maintain the moratorium on drilling permits for six months. He has also suspended planned exploration drilling off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia as well as on 33 wells under way in the Gulf of Mexico.

The hyperventilating over presidential optics ─ for that is all Obama can be expected to achieve ─ is that BHO has gone “coastal,” says the Washington Examiner’s Julie Mason: “instead of Australia, Guam and Indonesia, Obama heads back to the oil-slopped Gulf Coast next week for two days of squinting at the horizon and getting briefed by local officials. It’s a no-win for Obama: If he goes, we wonder why. If he stays away, we go on cable to say he doesn’t care.”

So what does the idolatrous Idiocracy want from its Golden Calf?

The Oprah faction confuses righteous indignation with righteousness; it wants Obama to come unhinged. The Disneyland division is hoping that off-shore oil explorer, acclaimed scientist and inventor James Cameron, who “has worked extensively with robot submarines,” will help the film directors of BP to plug the oil plume. Cameron’s plan includes that liquid metal robot from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” Obama must realize that there is no way such a plan could fail.

Oddly enough, Obama had initially resisted ascribing evil to Big Oil, but was pushed by bigger idiots to so do. The president’s previous stance on the spill made more sense to me:”While the government overseeing the operation, BP has the expertise and equipment to make the decisions on how to stop the flow. … BP is responsible for the cleanup and the government is accountable to make sure the company does it.”

British Petroleum’s incentives to minimize the mounting costs it is incurring are manifestly obvious ─ all the more so since the company has forfeited the privileges conferred on it by regulators.

Yes, regulation encourages recklessness. The oil conglomerate was operating under a Federal law that limits liability to a meager $75 million in lieu of economic damages. While the “1990 Oil Pollution Act” does not cap cleanup costs, litigation in excess of the $75 million is predicated on demonstrating gross negligence and willful misconduct in court. Even with the best of intentions, a company is inadvertently lulled into complacency by such state statutes.

Regulation is always the culmination of agreements between the regulated and the regulators, to the detriment of those left out of the political loop. The state and its corporate donors will invariably come to a consensus as to what constitutes reasonable damages to them, not to the aggrieved. Thus regulation always works to the advantage of the offenders.

The haggling has just begun. It’ll be years before harmed parties are made whole again. The Exxon Valdez litigation has only just wound up. Noah Hall of Wayne State University Law School told PBS’s Jim Lehrer: “There’s going to be a lot of disputes, a lot of litigation, and for many of these claims, the victims really won’t see justice for many years to come.”

The root of environmental despoliation is the tragedy of the commons, i.e., the absence of property rights in the resource. One of my favorite running routes wends along miles of lakeside property, all privately owned, and ever so pristine. Where visitors dirty the trail that cleaves to the majestic homes; fastidious owners are quick to pick up after them.

In the absence of private ownership in the means of production, government-controlled resources go to seed. There is simply no one with strong enough a stake in the landmass or waterway to police it before disaster strikes.

Entrusted with the management and regulation of assets you don’t own, have no stake in; on behalf of millions of people you don’t know , only pretend to care about, are unaccountable to, and who have no real recourse against your mismanagement—how long before your performance plummets?

A just tort system, moreover, would work best where title over the areas in question is deeded to private citizens. Otherwise litigation becomes “a question of proximity,” and not ownership. As Tracy Hester of the University Of Houston Law Center explained: “It’s going to be fairly straightforward and easy to process the claims of people who’re geographically close to the spill; who can show a direct nexus to how the spill has affected” the way they live their lives and make a living. Ditto any personal injuries. “But, as you spread out further in time and location, that ripple is going to get harder and harder to prove.”

Private property rights in waterways, or riparian rights in water that abuts private property—these are the best protectors of the ocean and of other state-controlled expanses of water.

I don’t expect Republicans to champion radical propertarian ideas. I do expect the party of smaller government to not plump for an increase in executive powers, even if politically expedient.

June 11

CATEGORIES: Barack Obama, Energy, Environmentalism, Political Economy, Popular Culture, Property Rights, Regulation, Republicans, Technology