Kevin Drum is, by my description (I don't know what he would call himself) a leftish technocrat. My read on him is that he sees a beneficial role for government via smart people sitting at the top and optimizing systems (e.g. the economy, energy policy, climate, etc). This is a consistent with a century-old branch of American progressivism, that distrusts chaotic outcomes of individual action and believes top-down optimization is called for.
The problem with this approach (discussed by Hayek and many others) is such top down optimization is impossible for a variety of reasons, from information to incentives. There is simply a myriad of examples where supposedly smart government officials attempted such technocratic tinkering and only ended up with a mess. I always supposed folks who argue for more of the same simply mentally ignored these examples.
But here is Kevin Drum lamenting the insanity of ethanol subsidies (for which he should be praised). Ethanol subsidies are absolutely counter-productive, but have been central to our top down US energy policy for over a decade.
So what I can't understand is how he keeps these two ideas in his head simultaneously -- of this ideal of brilliant actors managing the economy from above and the reality of ethanol policy. I suppose he could argue, as many technocrats do, that if only his guys were in power, everything would be different. But his guys are in power, and in fact his guys have been the main drivers and supporters of ethanol subsidies.
I have written a number of times about why even smart guys fail to do smart things when plopped down in the government.