I turned on the TV last night, hoping to see the opening of the Redskins-Eagles game, and I stumble on what appears to be Alan Alda, talking about drug company profits. But it can’t be Alan Alda. I think of Alan Alda as someone who is hostile to drug company profits. But he’s explaining how profits are OK and how drug companies save lives and how drugs save us from what used to require an operation. He doesn’t say enough about the incentive effects of high prices, but it’s pretty good.
It’s some kind of debate I’m watching. Alda’s opponent who is evidently a Democrat, touts his economic plan that will create a million jobs. The moderator asks Alda how many jobs his plan will create. Zero, Alda says. In fact, he adds, I’ll cut jobs. I’ll cut jobs in the federal government. Besides, he adds, Presidents don’t create jobs, entrepreneurs do. My job as President is to get out of the way and let the market work.
At this point I know I’m watching a TV show. No real candidate for President would have the guts to answer the question this way. (I know, I need to get out more. Or less actually. I guess most people knew what this debate was really about. I just don’t watch enough television.) Then they start talking about drilling in ANWR. The Democratic candidate is against it–bad for the environment and besides, there’s only a year’s supply of oil, there. Alda says, a year’s worth of oil is a lot of oil. And maybe there’s more there than we think. Then he asks the audience–have any of you ever been to ANWR? Clap if you’ve been there. Silence. Alda says–so why shouldn’t we drill in a place that only a few rich people will ever visit? (He should have mentioned the benefits to poor people of lower energy prices, but hey, it wasn’t perfect.) He asks if anyone in the audience has been to the Grand Canyon and there’s tumultuous applause. I wouldn’t support drilling there, Alda says, but why not ANWR? Why protect caribou having to look at oil wells?
In the closing statement, Alda gives an eloquent defense of freedom, the power of individuals to solve problems via markets, and the importance of limited government as envisioned by the Founders as a way to keep confidence in government doing what it should.
There were a few missteps here and there, but overall, it was the best defense of limited government I’ve heard from a candidate since Reagan. It figures, as a friend pointed out, Alda and Reagan are both actors.
Of course, the whole thing was a live version of the West Wing. But what I found interesting was how little they chose to caricature the Republican’s views, at least in the part I saw. He wasn’t a "compassionate conservative." And he wasn’t a heartless monster. He was about as Jeffersonian as you could imagine. Whoever gets the Republican nomination the next time around ought to hire whoever wrote Alda’s lines. It would be even nicer to have a candidate to choose from who actually believed those lines as well.