…And Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, off whose coast this tragedy is centered, is singing a new song, starkly at odds with what he said last year in a speech before the Republican faithful. Now he’s BEGGING for federal ”interference.” He wants federal money, federal supplies, wants the feds to help create barrier islands to protect Louisiana wetlands from oil.
Not to pick on Jindal. He is but one prominent voice in a chorus of Gulf state officials who once preached the virtues of tiny government but have discovered, in the wake of this spreading disaster, the virtues of government that is robust enough, at a minimum, to help them out of a jam.
You see, government is not our enemy. Government is the imperfect embodiment of our common will. That is a not-so-fine distinction Jindal and others like him have lost in the rush to stoke the sense of grievance that burns in some conservative souls. It is a distinction they recalled with great clarity as oil began spilling upon their waters.
As there are no atheists in foxholes, it turns out there are no small-government disciples in massive oil spills.
Small government is great as long as everything is going well. As soon as things start going nuts, people are looking around to pull them out of the jam they’re in.
Despite what some of our libertarian friends may think, business ain’t gonna be the one to fix this in the end. Government, with all it’s flaws will.
BP may end up paying for it, but they’ll never REALLY pay for it. They’ll follow Exxon’s lead and litigate it until the interested parties are broke or dead. That’s their interest, protecting their shareholder’s market value, not doing the right thing for the sake of the right thing.
Government’s interest, believe it or not, goes well beyond that of shareholders from the fishermen and restaurant owners whose lives will be changed beyond belief, to the animals and environment that this disaster will impact.
This is why, in stark contrast to most conservative ideology, regulation is an important protection that government must provide. The rampant deregulation that has gone on since the Reagan Administration has led to just about every economic disaster we’ve encountered since, from the Savings and Loan Crisis in the 80’s to the current financial crisis.
We can’t have it both ways folks. We either empower our government to protect our interests, or we tell it to stay the heck out of the way and suffer the consequences when problems inevitably occur.