Repubicans talk a big game about the virtues of untrammeled capitalism and the evils of distorting the energy market when it comes to stuff like subsidies for renewable energy.
But take a look at all these millions in subsidies they’ve proposed to convert various modes of transportation to run on natural gas, and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that they don’t actually believe in a free market for energy at all.
Which is fine. Markets are one tool among many for achieving policy objectives. Sometimes – as in the case of allocating scarce parking spaces or urban land – markets are the best tool. Sometimes an old-fashioned tax and transfer program is the best option, as in the case of health insurance. And sometimes direct public provision of services works best, as with police and fire protection.
Some people prefer to use the market tool more than others, and that’s not crazy or anything – everybody’s got their own take on what’s politically appropriate, or what’s most likely to work. But only a nutcase thinks free markets are an outcome to be desired in and of themselves, rather than a means to achieve some policy outcome.