Editor, Baltimore Sun
Dan Neil wants to nationalize General Motors, in part because "without big subsidies, there is no way in the near term to build these [electric] vehicles and make a reasonable profit, because of the stubbornly high cost of advanced batteries" ("Let's nationalize GM," Dec. 8).
Neil makes several wrongheaded assumptions. For example, he assumes that the future benefits of such a battery would outweigh the current costs of using them. But there's no way he can know this to be true. These batteries cost a lot today because their production requires an extraordinary amount of resources today. Using these resources to produce an unprofitable battery means that we sacrifice, TODAY, a great deal of profitable outputs and investments in other industries. Perhaps resources artificially forced into advanced-battery development would otherwise have helped cure cancer, or encouraged development of more fuel-efficient jet engines, or deployed to keep millions of retired Americans more financially secure. Neither Neil nor Uncle Sam can know the value of what would never be created as a result of subsidizing unprofitable production in
Donald J. Boudreaux
Don Boudreaux is the Chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University and a Business & Media Institute adviser