People who support expanded federal intervention into areas such as energy and health care naively assume that policymakers can make economically rational and efficient decisions to allocate resources. They cannot, as a Washington Post story today on FutureGen illustrates.
The story describes the political battle over the location of a $1.8 billion ”clean coal” plant. I don’t know where the most efficient place to site such a plant is, or if such a plant makes any sense in the first place. But the story illustrates that as soon as such decisions are moved from the private sector to the political arena, millions of dollars are spent to lobby the decisionmakers, and members of Congress are hopelessly biased in favor of home-state spending regardless of what might be best for the national economy as a whole.
President Obama has promised to ramp up spending on such green projects. So get ready for some huge political fights over the big-dollar spoils, and get ready for some monsterous energy boondoggles.