If you listen to John McCain and a huge number of right-wing “free marketeers” lately, you might walk away with the idea that a capitalistic free market cannot exist with regulation of business practices. They think–or want “regular” people to think–that if you have agencies of the law telling business what it may and may not do, it is tantamount to communism at worst, and destroys the liberty of the free market at best. “The consumer will punish businesses that do bad things!” these right-wing types proclaim. “There’s no need for government to get involved!”
Besides being, all too often, entirely untrue, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what a free market is really supposed to be.
The architects of the U.S. established that the people ought to have the ability to choose what they wanted, both in government and in commerce. They felt that if people were given the opportunity to make choices based on what political ideologies, candidates, parties, or–on the economic side–products were most valuable to them, this was the best system. I would agree. A representative democracy has worked for us for over 200 years, and a free market has allowed innovation and competition to flourish. But, just like our government is not “free” in the extreme sense of “anything goes,” because that would cause anarchy and then a totalitarian takeover, the system of commerce does not need to operate under “anything goes” either–and for the same reason. (Read more…)
There are some very good reasons why I have never chosen to identify with the “netroots” movement or the politics thereof. One such reason is the “movement”‘s eagerness to take credit for anything good that happens to the Democratic Party in elections, when the simple truth of the matter is that outside circumstances shape elections. If I were superstitious, I’d worry that the onset of crowing about the apparent coming Obama win would jinx it. However, that would be the ultimate in assigning undeserved responsibility to these characters.
The political pendulum swings back and forth. As a liberal, I think that the more liberal party should be the natural governing party of the U.S., because we need to move forward continuously. However, there is a place for a more conservative party, a loyal opposition, that keeps the metaphorical feet of the liberal party firmly on the ground, and sometimes gets rewarded with power when the liberal party becomes corrupt or goes off on some kind of crazy utopian scheme. A big reason why politics in the U.S. have been so messed up is because the party charged with keeping everyone’s feet planted on the ground was emphatically not the “conservative” party. It was the “conservatives” who had pie-in-the-sky visions of using force to instill democracy in people and being thrown flowers for it. It was the “conservatives” who believed that the sheer beneficent nature of the rich would lead to a pretty unicorn world of unregulated markets promoting widespread wealth. The “hard realist” party, the one attempting to put the brakes on these kinds of ideas, was the Democratic Party. Traditionally, liberals were supposed to have optimistic ideas of human nature and conservatives were supposed to be more pessimistic and cynical, but, despite the slogan of the Obama campaign, that has been reversed. Liberalism is traditionally, and classically, not supposed to be the check on conservatism run wild, but that’s what has happened now.
What we are seeing right now in the U.S. is that natural cycle, albeit in an upside-down world. (Read more…)
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