Will is right on ESLR-MA should not be involved-nor should the USA

Recently Will spoke out about Massachusetts and Gov. Patrick funding of Evergreen Solar (ESLR). Will is right to condemn it and the state was and remains wrong when it attempts to fund private industry; and for that matter so is Pres. Obama wrong on this allocation of resources. The private sector, often referred to by some at the State House and elsewhere as the “greedy private sector” , is in the business of finding the next new thing, they have pools of money for that purpose and do tons of research to find opportunity.  If the state was so sure ESLR was a great investment why had the greedy private sector with all it’s money and expertise  been unwilling to make the bet. What advantage does the state  (or the Dept of Energy  et al) have when it comes to private equity investments? Strategic tax breaks on a limited basis in return for plants and jobs maybe, but trying to pick winner s in new technologies or amongst  industries should be leftt to the greedy guy’s  and MA & the USA can collect their capital taxes.

3 replies on “Will is right on ESLR-MA should not be involved-nor should the USA”

  1. James,

    It’s an interesting question. I don’t have any special insight into the Evergreen Solar situation, but can address the part about innovation in general. A private investor wouldn’t take externalities into account, whereas a government might. In the case of energy production, it seems plausible that that could switch a “no” to a “go” based on the current science.

    Subsidies at the state level are likely not be the best way to steer innovation, especially when air pollution is a factor. But I think it’s too much of a reach to base federal innovation policy on this case.


  2. Andrew,
    I am not sure what defines “externalities” but suggest that in most cases government is not best suited to steer innovation; especially at the state level. That said when the federal government invests in efforts like NASA and the Manhattan Project, it would be appropriate that there is a license arrangement for products that come directly from taxpayers investments.
    James Sloman

  3. Andrew
    I encourage you and any others interested in the issue of government investment in the private sector to review the fate of Range Fuels. the folly is highlighted in the 2/10 lead editorial of the WSJ.

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