An essay from economist Arnold Kling in the latest Cato Policy Report discusses what Kling calls the “knowledge-discrepancy problem.” This occurs when knowledge is dispersed but power is concentrated, and it is particularly acute in government.
The economy remains weak and the administration’s stimulus has been a bust. To counter the growing unpopularity of his economic policies, the president is traveling around the country handing out government checks to anointed industries.
The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded $2.4 billion in stimulus money to develop and manufacture electric vehicles. The ostensible purpose of the government’s effort is to set the nation on a path toward more environmentally friendly transportation. But as the USA Today notes, electric cars might not provide the environmental benefits that proponents cite:
Biofuels lobbyists have been successful in securing federal funding and regulatory support. As an industry that thrives on federal subsidies, any threat to its privileged status is a cause for alarm. This week Energy Secretary Stephen Chu set off such alarm when he told a group of alternative energy developers that “if it were up to me, I would put every cent into electric cars.”
It didn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to recognize that the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program would put upward pressure on used-car prices. In nominating it “the dumbest program ever” back in August, Chris Edwards noted that “low-income families, who tend to buy used cars, were harmed because the clunkers program will push up used car prices.”