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Free Market Solutions To Government- Hatched Problems

Got oil in your water?  How’s that government supervised clean up working out for you?  A few weeks ago, I said:

This may be a hard pill for government groupies to swallow but the response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill (more government regulations and a limit on liability) is what caused this disaster.  Regulations offer a false sense of security.  Moreover, when the State manages risk for private industry, private industry will take as much risk as they are legally permitted.  It happened in the housing market and now its happening to our environment.  This is what free market supporters call “moral hazard” which is a fancy way of saying “with reward comes responsibility”.

Still, the chocolate milk pumps into the sea at a rate of 150 gallons per minute.  In my conclusion I said the free market might develop some new technology to clean up oil spills:

The solution?  Government should do one of its two legitimate functions and adjudicate the claims.  The judgments will properly quantify the risk associated with an oil spill so that the industry can better measure that risk.  Maybe all offshore drilling will cease.  Maybe new technology will be developed to bring the oil through the water safely.  Maybe reinsurance products will be developed to diversify the risk.  …but we’ll never know.  We’ll never know because Senator Sara and the rest of the superheroes in Washington are certain that they can corral what Adam Smith called “The Invisible Hand”

and…perhaps the private sector, financially backed by the most unlikely of entrepreneurs, did:

Motivated by the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, Kevin Costner began assembling a team of scientists to construct a machine that could clean up massive spills. A decade and a half later, that technology might now be put to use off the coast of Louisiana.

A massive oil slick creeping to the coast, vulnerable Louisiana wildlife just miles from its path, and Kevin Costner mingling on the lakefront. These are unusual times, and the Hollywood star is introducing his unusual machine — one designed to separate oil from water.

“It’s not anymore about talk,” said Costner. “It’s about doing the walk, and that phrase was probably invented down here.”

With a tub of oil at his side, Costner unveiled what he’s been financing for the last 15 years.

“It’s like a … big vacuum cleaner and it brings the water up and oil up and it will actually separate the oil and separate the water,” said John Houghtaling, Costner’s business partner.

Houghtaling said the biggest machines can handle 200 gallons per minute. That’s more than 50 gallons faster than what the leaking oil well is spewing out each day.

Read the whole article.  It’s fascinating stuff.

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  • 1 comment

    1 Comment so far

    1. Alex Cortez May 23rd, 2010 10:23 am

      Good post, Brian. It’s clear that government intervention hinders the free market from seeking out clear and effective solutions. When will they learn?