Esra Klein does his usual party trick. Of grasping a part of the problem then going entirely off the rails with his solution. Which – and this is going to surprise you, right? – is that we should hand over a free market that currently works and give it to government in order to – get this – speed up development.
Yes, speed up. In the same period that Pfizer refused government money because it would delay matters Ezra is declaring that more government will speed things up. Man’s insane, obviously:
My reason for optimism is technological: There have been remarkable strides made in plant-based meat — witness the success of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods — and milks. And the next step is cultivated meat, which is meat grown directly from animal cells. This isn’t science fiction: There’s now a restaurant in Singapore where you can eat lab-grown chicken made by Eat Just. Unsurprisingly, it tastes like chicken, because that’s what it is.
But so far, most of these advances, most of these investments, are through private dollars, with the findings locked up in patents, by companies competing with one another for market share. We’re going to need to move faster than that. “If we leave this endeavor to the tender mercies of the market there will be vanishingly few products to choose from and it’ll take a very long time,” Bruce Friedrich, co-founder and executive director of the Good Food Institute, told me.
Getting government to do something is so well known as a manner of increasing choice, isn’t it?
And note what Ezra says about the plant based meat substitutes. They’ve done well as purely private sector, free market, enterprises. In fact, they’ve done so well that competition is pressing down on margins and reducing prices. Another thing that government is so well known for, right? Reducing the cost of something?
It’s that typical progressive mindset here. Something’s happening so government must get involved. Even if it’s happening perfectly well without government then government must still get involved. Because, you know, government.
We could even start to think about the reason why government might even be able to help. Which is that basic research takes too long to make money out of, is too difficult to make money out of. Therefore government can/should be doing the basic research. So, where are we now? That’s right, the basic research has been done. We’re now at the innovation stage – the bit that Baumol said governments cannot do even if they can aid in the invention stage.
Even Mazzucato agrees that the rolling out of products isn’t the thing that governments are good at.
I’d like to be polite about it but my conclusion simply has to be that Ezra has gone insane.