Joe Scarborough didn't cotton to being called a "socialist," but that's just the label Krystia Freeland laid on him during today's Morning Joe. The Financial Times editor used the s-word to describe what she mockingly described as Joe's "touching faith" in the wisdom of government bureaucrats when it comes to reorganizing Detroit automakers.
The Morning Joe host didn't take the insult lying down.
Panelist Pat Buchanan and Scarborough had been making the case over the course of the opening segments that Detroit was too important to be allowed to go under. Then Freeland came on, preaching bankruptcy over bailout, and the ruckus erupted . . .
KRYSTIA FREELAND: Let the companies fend for themselves. These companies are not the victims of a one-off, global financial crisis --
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Krystia! But that's the problem, though.
FREELAND: These companies have been making mistakes for three decades since the last Detroit bailout. Everything they could have done wrong, they have done wrong. And I see absolutely no reason to believe, Joe, I mean, maybe I'm less of a socialist than you, but I do not believe the American government is so smart and so wise it will impose the right conditions that will make Detroit suddenly behave properly. Let Chapter 11 do its job.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you for calling me a socialist: no one has called me that in my entire life.
FREELAND: I thought you would like that!
SCARBOROUGH: That's for sure.
FREELAND: But your faith in the wisdom of government administrators is touching.
Ouch. Joe went on to make the point that government had successfully directed the economy when it came to building a war machine in WWII and creating a space program in the 1950s, and suggested the same could be done for Detroit. Freeland remained unconvinced.
FREELAND: I just don't believe government knows how to do that. And America has good carmakers who know how to make cars. They just happen to be called Toyota and Honda.
Mika Brzezinski weighed in with an unexpected bit of support for free markets.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I think first of all, the question is, can innovation be government imposed, especially under this type of stress? I'm not sure. I think you bring up a good point, about letting Chapter 11 do its job.
Scarborough is surely no socialist. But like many who consider themselves free market advocates, he is loath to unleash the forces of creative destruction on Detroit. The question is, for every job that in the short run might be saved, how many will be lost in companies—including some which might never have the capital to be born—more attuned to the market?