Ayn Rand must be rolling over in her grave. As a staunch defender of laissez-faire capitalism the one warning she gave us was of irrational selfishness and so it appears that she was right. Greed and stupidity on both the suppliers and the demanders has led us to this turning point where now the hard working, honest, and responsible heroes, of the like in Ayn Rand’s novels, are forced to bail out those who have failed. I read today Senator Dodd, Democrat of Ct. suggested to expand the bailout beyond forclosed mortgages to credit card and personal debt. Isn’t that wonderful? And what do the rest of us who have lived up to the demands of the American Promise get in return…less money for schools, hospitals, and infrastructure? Greater debt and taxes for our children? Loss of our social security and medicare benefits? Declining values on our homes?
While I remain confident in the philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism as socialism offers nothing for those of us who believe in hard-work and individual accountabiliy, I am increasingly losing confidence in the moral and ethical behavior of Americans who we depend on for the survival of our free markets. Many have seemingly lost the virtues of frugality, patience, and honesty that make capitalism work (for everyone)and replaced them with greed and need for immediate gratification. While some can blame a society that worships a materialistic hollywood and a rampant consumerism with unfettered advertising and loose morals, I believe the blame also falls onto an entitlement mentality which is fostered by an ever expanding liberalism. A liberalism that makes the claim that society is to blame for all problems and therefore society is responsible for solving all problems. This mentality has diminished individual accountability and has fostered a greedy and lazy attitude amongst many Americans.
While certainly our Republican friends have fed into the greed and exploitation of the stupid, I believe that the basic philosophy of the conservatism remains a sound one that has unfortunately been ignored by capitalists and vote-hungry politicians perhaps to the point where the demise of the system that supports them will occur. If so, this pulling of the rug is well deserved.. What happened to the Abe’s and the Teddy’s who believed in doing the right thing instead of the politically expedient?
I read a very interesting article this morning from Time which was posted on CNN. I found it to be one of the better commentaries on the bailout subject as it noted the ironies of our American Capitalism. It is entitled, “How We Became The United States of France.” Here are some exerpts you might enjoy:
“This is the state of our great republic: We’ve nationalized the financial system, taking control from Wall Street bankers we no longer trust. We’re about to quasi-nationalize the Detroit auto companies via massive loans because they’re a source of American pride, and too many jobs — and votes — are at stake. Our Social Security system is going broke as we head for a future where too many retirees will be supported by too few workers. How long before we have national healthcare? Put it all together, and the America that emerges is a cartoonish version of the country most despised by red-meat red-state patriots: France. Only with worse food.”
“The average American is working two and half jobs, gets two weeks off, and has all the employment security of a one-armed trapeze artist. The Bush Administration has preached the “ownership society” to America: own your house, own your retirement account; you don’t need the government in your way. So Americans mortgaged themselves to the hilt to buy overpriced houses they can no longer afford and signed up for 401k programs that put money where, exactly? In the stock market! Where rich Republicans fleeced them.”
“In bailing out mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, our government has basically turned America into the largest subsidized housing project in the world. But the bulk of French homeowners are curiously free of subprime mortgages foisted on them by fellow citizens, and they aren’t over their heads in personal debt.”
“We’ve always dismissed the French as exquisitely fed wards of their welfare state. They work, what, 27 hours in a good week, have 19 holidays a month, go on strike for two days and enjoy a glass of wine every day with lunch — except for the 25% of the population that works for the government, who have an even sweeter deal. They retire before their kids finish high school, and they don’t have to save for a $45,000-a-year college tuition because college is free. For this, they pay a tax rate of about 103%, and their labor laws are so restrictive that they haven’t had a net gain in jobs since Napoleon. There is no way that the French government can pay for this lifestyle forever, except that it somehow does.”
“Now the U.S. is faced with the same prospect in the auto industry. GM and Ford need money to develop greener cars that can compete with Toyota and Honda. And they’re looking to Uncle Sam for investment — an investment that could have been avoided had Washington imposed more stringent mileage standards years earlier. But we don’t want to interfere with market forces like the French do — until we do.”
“Even in the strongest sectors in the U.S., there’s no getting away from the French influence. Nothing is more sacred to France than its farmers. They get whatever they demand, and they demand a lot. And if there are any issues about price supports, or feed costs being too high, or actual competition from other countries, French farmers simply shut down the country by marching their livestock up the Champs Elysee and piling up wheat on the highways. U.S. farmers would never resort to such behavior. They don’t have to: they’re the most coddled special interest group in U.S. history, lavished with $180 billion in subsidies by both parties, even when their products are fetching record prices. One consequence: U.S. consumers pay twice what the French pay for sugar, because of price guarantees. We’re more French than France.” (the manure mafia??)
“So yes, while we’re still willing to work ourselves to death for the privilege of paying off our usurious credit cards, we can no longer look contemptuously at the land of 246 cheeses. Kraft Foods has replaced American International Group in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.”
It’s as hard to argue with the comments made in this article as it is to vote a Republican Party that has lost its way during the Bush Presidency. The recent failures in our economic system expose the darker side of capitalism which has left me a bad of a taste in my mouth. At the same time however, I fear for a society that is turning towards socialistic policies. Especially with wide open boarders and a globalized world that will demand the efficiency and competitive edge that only capitalism offers in order to succeed. So I feel let down and I feel as though the virtues once held high by our founding fathers and fought for by my grandfathers are now succombing to forces out of my control and neither party seems to care. What went wrong? We should all be asking this question and thinking about honest answers to it before we support any solution to it this November.