Friday, February 15, 2008

surveys of candidate opinions

Various groups (would it be prejudicial to call them "interest groups" or "lobbyists"?) send out surveys to candidates prior to an election and I've received several of them.

Although these surveys are supposed to help inform voters, I suggest voters view the results of the surveys with a critical eye.

In a survey I completed today, I was asked if I believed that
A. Market forces should decide the rate of oil sands development
B. Government should manage the rate of oil sands development to meet the long term interests of Albertans

What I happen to believe is that oil sands development should meet the long term interests of Albertans PERIOD. If the government does this best, then the government should do it. And, indeed, there are what economists call externalities such that market forces alone may fail to generate an efficient level of investment in environmental protection. Hence IF there is a negative externality and IF government acts in the interests of Albertans as opposed to the interests of government, then I'd choose B. But those are very big "if"s. Generally, free markets have done more for human welfare than governments ever have and I accordingly chose A. But choice A presumes the opposite, that the conditions of the "if"s are not satisfied, and my point is that they are open questions to be discussed. In sum, you can't squeeze all the complexities of public policy into a convenient pigeon hole.

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