An editorial, “More Bloomin’ Czars”

The question naturally arises: Do we really need a factory guru, especially one whose expertise is in advising labor unions — the cause of much of the U.S. steel and car industries’ woes?

The obvious answer is no. This is just another attempt to revive the long-discredited idea of industrial policy — the notion that markets are inefficient and unfair, and the economy can best be managed by government “experts.”

Most manufacturers, we’d contend, would welcome a federal focus on manufacturing competitiveness. But an industrial policy that picks winners also picks losers.

Which, we see, is also what the the Heritage Foundation worries about. From “Auto Czar to Become Manufacturing Czar?

Yet another Obama Administration czar? Don’t expect the White House to use the dreaded “C” word, but that seems to be the plan. By itself, of course, that’s no bad thing — after all even George Bush had a “manufacturing czar” within his Commerce Department. And there are plenty of positive steps that can be taken to ease burdens on manufacturers. In 2005, in fact, OMB published a list of regulatory changes that could help.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration — having just nationalized General Motors — seems to have quite different policies in mind. According to Bloomberg, the new position may be a response by the White House to calls for a full-blown national industrial policy for manufacturing. In recent congressional testimony, Obama advisor and former cable executive Leo Hindery starkly described the elements of such a strategy: government picking winners and losers among products and firms, government spending to support industry, and trade protectionism.

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