Archive for October, 2008

More on the Economy

October 27, 2008

On Conservatives’ Double Standard:

 

Conservatives, as a general rule, demand that parents exercise strict controls over their children.  There are to be rules, regulations, and clear expectations for childrens’ behaviors and achievements.  And there are to be punishments for youngsters who fall short.

 

Yet these same conservatives, when dealing with the adult world of high finance, utterly reject notions of discipline and oversight, and subscribe instead a free-wheeling abandonment of any responsibility for the control of the market.  The market will discipline itself, they claim, without any intrusion by government regulators in its internal workings. 

 

Well, no, apparently not!

 

There is a sea of debate out there about the current tanking of the economy, and I don’t want to add unnecessarily to the chatter.  But the loss of approximately one third of my retirement savings does fix my attention on the problem.  And it does lead me to puzzle over the obvious contradictions among conservatives’ philosophical approaches to the various aspects of life.

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Who Gave Us The Crash?

October 1, 2008

            So, what is to be said about the economic crisis in which we now find ourselves?  I would surely not be the first to note that there is plenty of blame to go around.  Americans on every side of the issue have been gullible enough to believe it when told by financial institutions that they could have something for nothing.  Financial institutions have been foolish enough to have faith in that very same fairytale.  The unimaginable greed of credit card companies has been and continues to be a serial killer of American aspirations to a comfortable middle class life.  The pharmaceutical and medical insurance industries have missed no opportunity to skewer American citizens’ pocketbooks.  The list goes on and on.

            But I do believe we must look very carefully at the long-standing conservative ideology that declares all regulation and oversight of businesses, by government (of, by, and for the people), to be necessarily evil.  What we now face is towering evidence that such is not the case.  Even Republican politicians are, however uneasily, slithering unhappily toward acceptance that some regulation of the financial sector may be necessary.

            The situation we face has a fairly long history.  Beginning in the mid-seventies, the conservative wings of both (yes, both) parties have extolled the virtues of an unregulated free market.  Jimmy Carter worked to de-regulate the airline industry, leading, over time, to the chaotic mess in air transportation we have now.  Reagan worked hard to destroy the labor union movement in this country leading, over time, to a significant drop in both union membership and middle-class income levels.  Bush 41, a Republican, was busy fighting a necessary war in a responsible way and, along the way, found it necessary to raise taxes.  His party trashed him for his efforts.  Clinton presided over a relatively prosperous eight years but, in the process, gave us NAFTA.  Neither party, during the negotiations leading to that treaty, bothered to insist on protections for working people and the environment here and abroad.  And the administration of Bush 43 has been a disaster for everyone other than the super rich in just about every category one could imagine.

            All of which leads to an unexpected conclusion:  like children who need a firm hand and clear direction from responsible parents, business and industrial leaders need a firm hand and clear direction from a responsible government.  Given no such firm direction they are as likely to wander into trouble as are children.  The traditional liberal view holds that children should be free to grow up according to their own desires and abilities, and that commerce should be tightly regulated.  The traditional conservative view holds just the opposite.  It now appears that both were about half-right. 

            Failed schools are filled with children whose parents have been irresponsible.  Failed businesses are run by executives whose government has been irresponsible.

            Now, here’s the revelation.  We know that adults who are not responsible parents are usually the children of parents who have been irresponsible.  It follows that business and corporate leaders who are not responsible are the product of a governing philosophy that has lacked discipline and responsibility.  The lesson is clear.  We must clear out the free-marketeers and bring back responsible regulation of both our economic and family lives.