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Ignorant Arrogance: Energy “Market Failure” Revisited

By Peter Grossman -- May 2, 2013

[Ed. note: Dr. Grossman is author of the just-released U.S. Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure, an important and sobering tome with much insight about today’s debate.]

The U.S. government has claimed over the years one and one reason only for government intrusion into markets: Market failure. As a Carter administration document put it:

The first assumption for any commercialization activity by the government is that the market either has failed or will fail to make the optimum choice … [and] that the government policy maker can make a better selection than can the market.

Every administration has reiterated something like this. The Clinton administration made the point that the government needed to get involved in creating an 80-miles-per-gallon “supercar” because as the president claimed, “[T]here are a lot of things that we need to be working on that market forces alone can’t do.”