Tuesday, April 1, 2014

No Purity in Politics

No Compromise

I can appreciate, with certain caveats, the philosophical basis for Republican ideology which places a premium on protection of private property, the encouragement of the entrepreneurial spirit and sanctifying individual self-reliance as a way of life.  The belief is that unleashing the energies of self-interest is the best way to grow the economy and raise the standards of society as a whole.  Our constitutional government makes the rule of law the bedrock of all government decisions.  Our historical philosophy has always been to hold the power of governance with suspicion.  This has served us well.  No one individual, no matter his office or station in life, is above the law.

I cannot fault any of these ideas as they are expressed.  Similarly, were I to examine the key underpinnings of Marxism I would also find them worthy of merit.  I am inclined, though, to have greater regard for the strivings of the individual.  I believe honest work should be rewarded in kind.  I am personally willing to put up with a certain degree of greed, corruption and unfairness that comes with our economic and political model because I believe it to be the best possible solution available to us, despite its many drawbacks.  This is because I view myself as being pragmatic.  I love noble philosophical outlooks but they serve only as guidelines and I think they quickly break down when implemented as policy by their true believers, left or right.

Government is not well suited to make decisions for industry but the results are worse for society as a whole when government relinquishes its role entirely to the mechanisms of free enterprise.  The fundamental problem I have with unrestrained capitalism is that power follows money.  Taking just the economic history of this nation since the mid-nineteenth century provides substantial evidence to support this conclusion.  The problem is not just the unfairness that results from a concentration of power and wealth that is limited to a relative privileged few. 
The resulting oligarchy does not well serve either economic growth nor is it faithful to the democratic process.  This is because large centers of financial power resist any changes that might undermine their own self-interest no matter the consequences to the greater good. 

We believe that we are best protected from the tyranny of government power through a system of built-in checks and balances.  The President has veto over congressional legislation.  The Supreme Court has veto over any law counter to the Constitution and the President appoints Supreme Court justices with confirmation by the Senate.  It has worked fairly well for two hundred years.  I believe our economic system also works best when there are similar mechanisms of balance.  One example is that there are laws against monopolistic practices because competition encourages innovation and better quality products for the consumer.  Government has a role in the economy that private enterprise cannot supply.  One example is the setting of monetary policy that is provided by the Federal Reserve.  Another example is implementation of regulations that ensure the safety of the food we eat, our water supply and control over the busy airways that link our cities.  All these systems are for the good of society as a whole but their integrity could be jeopardized if powerful money interests had undue influence over the workings of government. 

I’m making just a general argument here for the role government must play if there is to be a healthy equilibrium within our society.  Our economic and political welfare hinges upon a well educated population.  We should always keep in mind that our number one resource as a nation is our people.  Our policies should reflect this conviction.

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