Wealth, Jobs, the Fishing Industry, and Obama

The New England fishing industry is in serious trouble. Fishermen are leaving, giving up on their jobs. Fishing boats have become a glut on the market. The only aspect of the industry that is flourishing is the government bureaucracy. The free-market system no longer applies in the age of Obama.

When free enterprise did apply, entry into fishing as your own boss required a boat -- a significant investment, considering the technology to make the boat safe, legal, and competitive. In economic terms, the boat owner made an investment of capital or, if you will, of wealth. The new captain would then hire a crew. The invested wealth had created employment opportunities -- jobs. Then it was off to sea, with the attendant dangers, discomforts, and heavy labor involved in catching the fish. The catch, the tangible result of the sweat of their labor, represented new wealth that could drive economic growth.

But -- a big "but" -- there is a constraint on the free market in fishing. Fish are a renewable resource, and if the fleet takes (as it did) fish at a rate greater than the resource's capacity to renew itself, the resource will collapse. And thus we got government regulation. Don't get me wrong -- some degree of regulation is essential. But just as over-fishing can collapse the resource, over-regulation can smother the industry. 

The initial regulations were strict -- some say too strict -- but were aimed at replenishing the stocks while recognizing the needs of the fishing fleet. The regulations worked. The fleet shrank, jobs were lost, and the fish stocks recovered. The allocated limits on catches did not recover to the same extent as the fish stocks, but the industry, while diminished, remained viable.

Enter Obama.

Obama filled the top slots of the bureaucracies with environmentalist ideologues. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Obama's selection for the head of NOAA, is a brilliant scientist and a capable administrator, but also a hard-over environmentalist. She has plans to shrink the fishing fleet by more than half and then to restructure the remainder into bigger, presumably more efficient vessels. New regulations were imposed on 1 May 2010: miniscule allocations, big-brother reporting, electronic tracking, government observers on nearly every other trip. Of course, to implement this, the bureaucracy has expanded -- exploded -- with lots of public-sector jobs. The trouble with public-sector jobs is that they do not create wealth. On the contrary, they are paid for by the taxpayer and represent a drain on available capital. 

The fishing industry is now being managed and controlled, to the point of restructuring, by the federal government. Isn't that the very definition of socialism? How did the government, the executive branch, get such power?

The lazy Congress, chartered by the Constitution to write our laws, generates broad and vague half-laws, inserting undefined regulatory provisions and permitting the executive branch to write the other half of the law as regulations. The devil is in the details, and it is the details that the lazy Congress relinquishes to the executive. Look no further. This is why our fine representatives and senators can say with straight faces that we won't know what a law will become until well after it has been passed. A fine kettle of fish, if you'll pardon the pun.

Obama's approach to the jobs issue is to fund more public-sector jobs. This is of little help, as public sector jobs do not generate new wealth, new growth. Obama and his people do not appreciate this. "Community organizer" is not a wealth-creating job. Most members of the administration have never spent a day in a wealth-creating job. 

Obama's approach to the difficulties of the fishing industry is pure Obama. Take advantage of the half-law passed by the lazy Congress and use regulations to put the government firmly in control. Socialize the industry. Never mind that socialism generally fails while capitalism generally succeeds -- not because of the book-smart economics, but because of the effect on the psyche. People have a sense of self-worth under capitalism that is not provided by socialism. 

The fishing industry experience is a cautionary tale. Consider ObamaCare. The lazy Congress has given Obama a comprehensive blank check to regulate the health care industry. Have no doubt about it. It is the slippery slope to socialized medicine. Consider cap-and-trade: another comprehensive opportunity to gain control via suffocating regulations.

What can we do? Well, it is still a democracy. We must first expel the lazy Congress in 2010 and replace it with patriots more interested in our country than in partisan politics and reelection. Then, in 2012, we must wrest the country from the rookie and his cronies and return it to experienced people dedicated to American exceptionalism.

Mike Johnson is a concerned citizen, a small-government conservative, and a live-free-or-die resident of New Hampshire. E-mail mnosnhoj@comcast.net