What if government stopped promoting

Eric Suwall


The MDN poll on 9.23 asks if the US government should get involved in promoting certain domestic industries. Unsurprisingly, a majority of respondents said ‘no’, the government should not get involved. It would be great if the MDN made this question more specific regarding the type of industries they had in mind, but given the political bent of the paper, I assume that the question is really asking if the Biden administration should promote green energy and chip manufacturing.

Since we are in North Dakota after all, maybe we should consider what would happen if the government stopped promoting domestic industry in general. In our state, oil exploration and extraction would collapse since the US government subsidizes that industry to the tune of 20 billion dollars a year – and that’s not counting how oil companies use creative accounting to avoid paying taxes. Then there is farming, ND’s other big industry. From 1995-2020, our state alone received almost 10 billion in subsidies from the federal government. Without those funds, how many of the readers of this very paper would have been able to keep their farms running?

Of course oil and agriculture are crucial to our nation’s success, and it would be absurd for the federal government to leave such important industries to market forces; but that’s also true for the computer chips that are integral to electronics (like military equipment!) and the green energy revolution that is changing how we power our lives. And while I understand that North Dakotans in general love fossil fuels and have a strange aversion to clean energy, we should note that the more dependent our country and the world are on fossil fuels, the more profit the fossil fuel industry makes globally. That means Russian and Saudi oil is worth more, which gives more money to authoritarian regimes. If the price of oil dropped because the US no longer uses such a vast share of global output, we could bankrupt the very regimes that threaten us. I suppose this needs to be stated clearly: historically OPEC countries are not friendly to the US and our allies, so it would make strategic sense to diminish the value of petroleum.

I’m old enough to remember when the Republican party championed democracy and innovation, and sadly I’m aware that the new GOP is less excited about those goals. It’s a shame that republicans want American workers to be stuck underground mining coal or getting injured out in the oil fields. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Workers in the fossil fuel industry could easily learn new skills, and install wind turbines and solar panels rather than digging pits and laying pipes. Americans could also create and manufacture the latest technologies, leading the world in research and development. But instead, Republicans want us stuck in the past. Apparently over 50% of MDN readers want that too.


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