But the Democrats’ present zeal for government activism often goes well beyond addressing market failures. The president and Congress seem to believe that they can surgically intervene in the economy but overlook the unintended consequences. They are willing to demonise business when doing so furthers their aims. In one breath Mr Obama praises a bank that wrote down its claims on Chrysler and in the next lashes out at investors who, as was their right, did not.
Members of his team believe that tougher rules for business are necessary to cool voter anger that would otherwise result in even more vindictive measures. But rather than tamping down the backlash, they may only feed it. They aggravate that risk by outsourcing rule-writing to Congress, as with the fiscal stimulus and carbon emissions and, soon, health care. Congress is much more likely than the executive branch to let special interests or demagoguery shape the outcome.
Too often, the result is overkill.