Friday, May 28, 2010

Free enterprise vs. government regulation

A partial response to America's new culture war: Free enterprise vs. government control By Arthur C. Brooks - the president of the American Enterprise Institute.

There are actually a lot of Untruths in that piece by Brooks trying to be truths. It's not true, for instance, that entrepreneurs cannot flourish amidst reasonable government regulations. As R.Reich states, "Corporations are organized to maximize profits, not to achieve public goals such as environmental protection, financial trust, safety, and so on." And it's silly to suppose that corporations are going to act for the public good without regulations by the government requiring them to do so.

The anti-regulatory stance of Republicans is responsible for the Financial Crisis and BP's Gulf Oil Spill disaster. Republicans have had anti-government, corporate cronies where they should have had regulators - so of course - the system as they controlled it was inept. Not that the likes of the American Enterprise Institute will admit that. It goes against their profit-loving, pro-materialism, yea-rah propaganda.

The only problem that I see with Obama is that he has been too much like a Republican - supposing that corporations will act in the public interest when they are not required to do so. And probably because the corporations and the money are too much in control of elections and politicians, in general.

My answer is to get the the corporations out of government - not to get government out of the way of the corporations.

This is not a "New" culture war. This is the war started by Reagan - getting the rich richer and the poor poorer. A pro-materialism war.

As R.Reich wrote in his piece, How Conservatives Made the Case for Increased Regulations:

Since Ronald Reagan first opined that government was the problem rather than the solution, right-wing Republicans have blasted all forms of regulation. Now we see the consequences of years of regulatory neglect.

I guess it figures that someone who is President of the American Enterprise Institute is going to be single minded in his push for materialism. Here Brooks takes issue with Obama and what is a typical commencement theme "it's not all about the money":
...entrepreneurship can flourish only in a culture where individuals are willing to innovate and exert leadership; where people enjoy the rewards and face the consequences of their decisions; and where we can gamble the security of the status quo for a chance of future success.

Yet, in his commencement address at Arizona State University on May 13, 2009, President Obama warned against precisely such impulses: "You're taught to chase after all the usual brass rings; you try to be on this "who's who" list or that Top 100 list; you chase after the big money and you figure out how big your corner office is; you worry about whether you have a fancy enough title or a fancy enough car. That's the message that's sent each and every day, or has been in our culture for far too long -- that through material possessions, through a ruthless competition pursued only on your own behalf -- that's how you will measure success." Such ambition, he cautioned, "may lead you to compromise your values and your principles."

I appreciate the sentiment that money does not buy happiness. But for the president of the United States to actively warn young adults away from economic ambition is remarkable. And he makes clear that he seeks to change our culture.

Brooks is trying to maintain the values that advertisers have been forcing on people since the early days of TV. Retail analyst Victor Lebow wrote in the 1950s, : "Our enormously productive economy... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discared at an ever-accelerating rate."  

This is what Arthur Brooks wants to maintain. And he doesn't want anyone messing with his materialism or his profits or his entitlement philosophy.

I rather agree with his assertion that people are happier when people are able to earn money and be successful without government help. The trouble with today's economy and the economy Americans have been forced to live with since Reagan- is that people in large businesses, especially in the financial sector, people at the top of the corporate hierarchy, whether they be in law or whatever - have made enormous profits - the rest of us have had stagnant wages. The world is increasingly polarized - we've actually returned to the era of the 20s - with income inequality. This is why there needs to be redistribution through taxes. The system is too far out of wack.

Wrote Brooks:
...The new statism in America, made possible by years of drift and accelerated by the panic over the economic crisis, threatens to make us permanently poorer. But that is not the greatest danger. The real risk is that in the new culture war, we will forsake the third unalienable right set out in our Declaration of Independence: the pursuit of happiness.

Free enterprise brings happiness; redistribution does not. The reason is that only free enterprise brings earned success...If unearned money does not bring happiness, redistributing money by force won't make for a happier America -- and the redistributionists' theory of a better society through income equality falls apart.

There are various means of putting the system back into "wack" - such as making equal wages for women a reality. Having subsidized daycare. Having more a more equitable education system. Having college be free for all who are study and work for it. Having a universal, single-payer health care system. Having good health and access to health, as a right as a citizen instead of as a handout - would make people happier - esp. those with mental illnesses such as depression.

And basically - instead of making people feel like they are having to get a handout - even when they are working a full week - but with inadequate wages- would make a lot of people happier. The only people who may be made "permanently poorer" in my scenario are those in the top 1% on the income bracket - those who are feeding off the labor of the permanently poor each and every day.

There are two parts to this. Regulating corporations and providing an equitable tax system and community programs so that everyone can live in dignity. Obama and the government needs to provide leadership in this and people need to see the big picture of what is going on with corporations merely fighting for their interests - which is basically the "value" of keeping as much money as possible sequestered and controlled by those at the who already have the most.

I agree with Reich:
It's also important for the President to connect the dots -- providing Americans a clear narrative for why government is so critically important. Corporations are organized to maximize profits, not to achieve public goals such as environmental protection, financial trust, safety, and so on...

The President has an opportunity now to express appropriate indignation and to assert the importance of reasonable regulation. He should waste no time doing so.

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