Viewpoint: What is wrong with these people?I got a call from a pollster the other night. He asked my opinion about the cause of the current economic crisis.
By: Carl Scheider, Viewpoint Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
I got a call from a pollster the other night. He asked my opinion about the cause of the current economic crisis. He asked if I thought the cause was primarily:
A – People who borrowed money that they could not repay.
B – Republicans, for removing oversight on financial institutions.
C – Financial institutions, for their greed.
D – Democrats, for something or other. I don’t actually remember this one.
I replied: “All of the above.”
This “Free Market” stuff is like religion. People “believe” in it, despite the evidence to the contrary.
One of our fearless leaders, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa from California, said that he could never approve this bailout because it violated Republican principles. He said it would be like placing “a coffin on top of Ronald Reagan’s coffin.”
Even if the system fails, I will not abandon my beliefs.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the free market — to an extent. As long as people believe in it, it works the wonders of competitive greed. When they don’t believe in it, it collapses around us. The basis of the success and the failure of this system is the same human tendency — selfish greed.
We are a bunch of hairless apes who are not to be trusted. We hope that civilization has modified the greed a bit, but we have checks and balances for a reason.
It is the same with power — it corrupts. You really cannot have any kind of institution, government or financial, where one person, or even a small group, is in charge. They will benefit themselves to the detriment of the rest of us.
But it is a lesson we have to continually relearn, because our genetic tendency is to love a simple hierarchy, a strong leader, clear directions. It worked when we beat back that other leaderless tribe, and we are tuned to love it.
We don’t have a free market — we haven’t had one since the great monopolists made their fortunes. We recognized then that you can’t trust people where money is involved. We don’t even trust people to simply stop at red lights. We know a large percentage will not, unless we make them believe there are penalties.
And no one would let a bank teller deal with money and not count the cash in the till. In other parts of the civilized world like Italy, it takes two people to withdraw money.
At the end of the day, a third person counts the cash and tallies the receipts. That way it takes at least three people to steal something.
Why do we think the financial institutions are any different? Or the average borrower? Or the average politician? We don’t really want to trust anyone with money, without putting in place rules and controls.
“All of the above” are to blame for this crisis. But religiously affirming “free market principles” will get us nowhere. A “regulated free market” has some tinge of hope about it, until we think of something better.
And I love these statements: “It would be a start down the slippery slope to Socialism.” It sounds like a bad word. But which European countries have the most solid economics? It’s the Nordic countries, of course.
They are examples of “extreme socialism.” They have high taxation rates and high public services. They also have the lowest rates of theft and murder, and the highest ethical business standards and the highest “happiness” quotients.
I think they have that because they came from small tribes, and know that they have to work together to survive the harsh winters. The New York Times calls them an “Economy with safety features, like a Volvo.”
Our economy is more like the old Fords — fix it when it breaks, because you know it is going to break.
Scheider is a resident of Woodbury.