Rejoinder on the BP Oil Spill
by Walter Block
Recently by Walter Block: The BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Disaster
Previously, I wrote an article on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, entitled "The BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Disaster." Whereupon Prof. Philip Dynia, a member of the Political Science Department at Loyola University New Orleans, wrote a highly critical letter to the editor of the Maroon, the student newspaper, where my essay had also appeared. The present essay is a rejoinder to Prof. Dynia.
I greatly regret that this author never addressed himself to the essence of my thesis: that the BP oil spill is not at all an embarrassment for the laissez faire capitalist philosophy; rather, it demonstrates the failure of dirigisme. Instead, this member of our political science department confines himself to nit picking.
Prof. Dynia starts off by taking exception to my parenthetical remark, hinting that the reason the Obama administration was even more than usually dilatory and ineffective in dealing with the oil spill is because of all the Gulf states only Florida voted for this president. This political science professor chalks this up to my "mind-numbing addiction to Fox News" and urges me to wean myself from it. Does Professor Dynia’s expertise reside in fantasizing about other people’s TV addiction? Well, did he know anything about my Weltanschauung he would realize that I hate Fox News for their support of U.S. imperialist adventures abroad, but, sometimes, as in this case, they get it right. (Does Professor Dynia have to be reminded that even a stopped clock is right twice a day?) There is such a thing as corruption in U.S. politics, and I am "shocked, shocked, I tells you," that a distinguished political scientist such as Philip Dynia appears to be unaware of this. I recommend he read this paper: Leeson, Peter T. and Russell S. Sobel. 2008. "Weathering Corruption." Journal of Law and Economics, vol. 51, November, as but one empirical demonstration of this phenomenon.
My critic then launches into a familiar Obama refrain: blame Bush, in this case for the manifest misdeeds of MMS. How long will this pathetic excuse last? Has not Obama been in office for many moons as of now? Had he not spent the first year of his reign shoving Obamacare down the unwilling throats of the American workers/taxpayers, wasting hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ hard-earned incomes on failed stimulus plans and reappointing a Fed chairman who has flooded the economy with liquidity to the detriment of the frugal; i.e., honest savers, he might have had time to try to make the already BLOATED Federal government competently, to the extent possible, perform the functions with which it was already charged.
Of course, I, as a libertarian, would not suggest an increase in the size of this inefficient government bureaucracy. What then, asks Dynia? Why, privatization of course. If the Gulf of Mexico were in private hands, its owners would undoubtedly exercise more responsibility and control. Why is Disney World relatively safe, compared to many — yea, virtually all — public parks? It is due to profit-and-loss incentives, and, yes, to the "far right" invisible hand. Of course, "get the government out of the regulatory business entirely." If we have learned anything from decades of statist regulation, not only are the bureaucrats "captured" by their supposed overseers, very often regulations start out at the behest of large corporate and/or labor union interests trying to harness the government’s power to use force to restrict competition or artificially increase demand in order to raise their profits. I have a suggestion for Prof. Dynia: some of Gabriel Kolko’s (a fellow leftist) writings but one who at least is aware of this phenomenon.
Next, Prof. Dynia accuses Palin, Susteren, Hutchison and me of not allowing "bothersome reality to get in the way of their convictions." (If my political science colleague wishes to link me with others, why not with libertarians, with whom I would agree? Why with, ugh, conservatives? They are as far apart from free enterprisers such as me as equally, ugh, left liberals. One would think that an expert in political science might appreciate this bit of political reality.) Against the four of us, he brings FactCheck.org to bear; to wit: "[i]n reality, according to … the Deepwater Horizon response team there were 15 foreign flagged ships participating in the oil spill cleanup." This statement is not contradicted by anything I said in my initial op-ed. There, I stated, "… our president for a long time refused to abandon the nefarious Jones Act…" (emphasis now added). Remember, the disaster occurred on April 20, 2010. Dynia complains about "late June’s Fox News conspiracy obsession" with the Jones Act, and states, as if to contradict me: "On June 23, the U.S. State Department indicated that offers from six foreign countries or entities had been accepted." Well, as far as I am concerned, two months is a long time, especially when the Gulf is being inundated by a rampaging oil spill. My critic’s charge is undermined by his own concession about Obama’s "admittedly pathetic initial response." In other words, this Professor is criticizing me for agreeing with him. We both maintain that Obama was late in abandoning Jones, not that he never did it. Don’t they teach and adhere to logic in the political science department?
By the way, the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and its so-called fact check, is indeed a decidedly leftist organization. It may not be "dominated by union bosses," but it certainly favors tyrannical unions. (To the young people reading this, wait until you see the taxes you will have to pay in order to cover defined-benefit pensions of some private sector unionized workers, and, of course, those of unionized government employees-some of which taxpayer liabilities are given top priority in state constitutions. Many of you will be working to subsidize an expensive life-style for retired union workers — see the current situations in; e.g., California and Illinois.)
I am delighted that Prof. Dynia is willing to make common cause with me regarding the complete privatization of the Gulf of Mexico, although I may be excused for not fully believing him on this. I am perfectly willing to welcome him to the libertarian movement if I am in error here. He asks, would the new owners, in my view, include people living in Mexico? But I stated that this would include "all those living within, say, five miles of its (the Gulf’s) coast." Maybe the good professor is consulting a different map over there in Poli Sci, but here, in Econ, ours shows that there are many Mexicans living within five miles of the Gulf of Mexico. So, of course they would join the ranks of the new owners.
My Loyola colleague also objects to my use of the word "pinko." According to the OED, "red" refers to "a communist [or] a radical socialist," whereas "pinko" refers to someone with "left-wing or liberal views; a socialist." If the target of my Maroon op-ed, Thomas Frank, isn’t a pinko then I don’t know who is. I don’t care that the evil war-mongering socialist Nixon used this term; it still fits.
Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable and Labor Economics From A Free Market Perspective. His latest book is The Privatization of Roads and Highways.