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…)
As readers of this blog have undoubtedly noticed, I’ve been focusing heavily on the recovery process of Hurricane Katrina lately. Much attention has been devoted to the initial response and its shortcomings, but critiques of the reconstruction are harder to come by.
And now… we come to an issue that is not only being overlooked, but appears to have a very strong public relations effort underway to spin it a certain way.
This is a multi-pronged issue, but in a nutshell, it’s this: Big industry is getting free rein to buy up anything it can get its hands on, with encouragement and aid from the government at several levels. In the meantime, coastal residents and local businesses are having to rely on private charities (as well as an Attorney General who will fight for them against people trying to ruin them financially) to get back on their feet.
It’s fairly common knowledge that war profiteering on a truly grand scale is taking place in Iraq while the Iraqis and our own soldiers watch the country degenerate into total anarchy and civil war. This same type of corporate profiteering, often by the same companies, is taking place on our very own Gulf Coast as well, while the residents of the coast are left to fend for themselves.
This issue deals with the great divide between the haves and the have-nots, and as such, it is intimately related to the housing and insurance problems associated with the Katrina recovery. This story is likely to have some overlap with previous entries.
Private charity is a great thing, and it’s stories like this that restore some of my faith in humanity when it falters. However, these stories are deeply, deeply sad. The extent of the devastation in these communities is so great that these organizations, despite their heroic efforts, are swamped. (Read more…)