State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

The Problem With Subsidies

I was walking through the Church History Museum by Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, when I saw something that made me smile.  There is a small space dedicated to each leader of the church that contains a few items to sum up some aspects that would be attributed to him.  As I walked by the space for Ezra Taft Benson, there was a Time magazine cover, which he was on as Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture.  It had a quote of his:

“No real american wants to be subsidized.”

I had to smile because I, too, have a problem with subsidies, a few problems actually.  The first problem is that people quickly become more interested in the subsidy than the actual business.  It is often far more lucrative.  It often makes a losing business a profitable losing business at taxpayers expense.  This leads to the second problem:  Business is started simply to gain a subsidy, or it shifts its business model from a successful, profitable one to a model set up to gain subsidies.  We see this in the alternative energy field.  Now we have the third problem, which is when companies, such as General Electric, find out that it is so much easier to gain taxpayer’s money than consumer’s money, that they flex political muscles to get the right subsidies offered to make huge profits.  I call this blatant theft.

Finally, the biggest problem I see with subsidies is that they distort the outcome of choices.  I believe that God sent us here to earth to learn by our own experience.  This means that we are to make choices and learn by experience the results those choices bring.  We often call it “choice and accountability”.  I believe evil is not found so much in making a mistake, but in not learning from a mistake.  When we subsidize business or behavior, we are taking the accountability away from the choice.  We are causing a mistake to have incorrectly good results or causing an OK decision to have amazingly great results.  Either way, we have ruined the equation of choice and accountability.  We have ruined freedom, because without the knowledge of true choices and true results, we are not able to make decisions based on what we really want and are really able to do.  This, as Bruce R. McConkie explained (The Millenial Messiah, pg. 666-667), was the major opposition to God’s plan.

Back to the real world, it was refreshing to see the Canadian mainstream media explain the results of their poor decisions on subsidies.   See:

I hope we can have the foresight to see that freedom is based on not manipulating the results of decisions.  Failing is a good thing when failure has been earned.  To have sympathy for failure and take away the consequence is a cruel thing to do.  To have empathy for failure and help someone to truly succeed requires more effort, but is the correct and charitable way.  In the long run, our freedom depends on learning these simple concepts.


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  1. Ben

     /  May 8, 2012

    If GM would have been allowed to fail, and restructure through Bankruptcy, some of us might be driving new Pontiacs and Hummers instead of making jokes about the Volt.


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