Sep 25, 2010

The Arrogance of Those Who Did Bad and the Need for Strengthening the Middle Class

It's amazing that those people who are saved by the government are also against government--not just inefficient government--but scream against the expanding powers & scope of it. On This American Life [link to follow when they make this segment available], I listened to a segment about Wall Street people who never ever want to acknowledge (not even to themselves) that they screwed up and their companies & jobs had to be salvaged by a big government bailout!

Edvard Munch's Vampire. [yes, there's an analogy somewhere here]
Most Americans are under the impression that the marketplace is the best mechanism for everything and that pure capitalism is the order of all things. No, the state has lots to do with the marketplace. For one, it protects the businesses, creates opportunities for new entries, regulates behavior to protect consumers, and ensures competition. All these are desirable qualities. The fact that there are failures should lead us to examining the causes and improving the performance of our institutions.

The Republicans run on a platform of limited government, which may be a good principle as an alternative. Personally, I'm in favor of efficiency, honesty, transparency, accountability, all in the service of our commonwealth--or, put it in another way, in service to the people of our country. But, what is the best way to serve the people? Leave it to the "invisible hand of the market" only? Not sufficient and might even be dangerous without the appropriate safeguards.

Like any other country, we have powerful myths. Yet, we often should check with reality. For example, do we live longer than other advanced countries? Are we more educated? Do we have more leisure, are we less affected by crime, are we happier? If not why not? 

Most advanced countries seem to have decided that a strong middle class is necessary for a better quality of life and for the political system to serve the people, not the elites. Extreme concentrations of wealth and power in the hands of the few isn't good. Greater such inequalities exist in dictatorships and less advanced countries than in advanced liberal democracies, who rely on their government & the laws to correct injustices and lack of opportunity.

Aristotle who was very critical of democracy--the common people participating in the decision making process of their polity--but he thought it was the best regime to promote the interests of the many. He argued for a government bound by popular consent and one that serves the middle class. He was in favor of a Republic, as the framers of our constitution were. But, he was adamant about having a strong middle class, not extremes of power and wealth.

Now, guess what, those responsible for royally screwing our government and the country (not to mention other countries) want to be in power again--and they may be able to capture the House of Representatives. Their "new" ideas are those old ideas about giving tax cuts to 2% of the population, less regulation in Wall Street, and, oh yeah, no consumer protection, or creating opportunities for those who need their government to represent the people's interests.  

How's this for a new Republican idea, their energy saving proposal: construct all roads downhill...