Archive for the ‘capitalism’ Tag

Truth and consequences

Somebody’s gotta say it: it’s insanity to do something over in the same way and expect different results.  This evening, the Senate will consider a ‘bailout package’ all dressed up with icing and bows decorating the same proposal that was rejected on Monday.  Mental parity?  Unrelated tax incentives?  And especially, the FDIC limit, raised to make it easier for those with astronomical funds, but making little difference to the vast majority of us.

While politicians have said little to make us think they’re on our side, the media has worked hard to convince us that the bailout is necessary, that the Wall Street crumble will trickle down to affect us all.   Will public pressure ease off for tonight’s vote?  We shall see.

But let’s make no bones about it: by executing a bailout of any kind, we are altering our system of free enterprise.  We are setting a precedent of government intervention in the market that will morph our entire economy.  The market’s freedoms led to the disaster.  A stern parent would let this wayward child suffer the natural consequences and emerge the stronger for it.  But we are soft, and afraid, and not all that convinced of our beliefs.  So we will rescue the bad boys and then supervise them, hoping that such measures will restore balance.  Any parent knows that this tactic, while it may preserve parental calm, does little for the perpetrator, who comes to expect rescue while his own recklessness remains intact.

I believe we are moving away from capitalism towards a much more cooperative economy, because the dog-eat-dog tactics of capitalism break down in an overpopulated world.  So the bailout idea isn’t out of line with this.  I wonder, though, if the action is properly understood as the tradition-smasher that it is.  By adopting any kind of bailout plan, we are admitting that capitalism has failed us, we are setting out – whether we want to or not – on a long and likely painful search to locate its successor.

Too big for our britches

An article from Time today suggests that historians will find fault with our leaders for not explaining sufficiently the economic woes we Americans are facing, and not making clear how their bailout plans will effectively address the problem.  The issues are complex indeed, and perhaps no one has a comprehensive explanation for the current crisis.

Sometimes it seems as though almost all our issues stem from the fact that there are simply too many of us.  We are continuing to use old systems and mores, ones that worked when the population was manageable; but since our numbers have exploded in the post WWII world, much of what we’ve held to be true simply doesn’t work anymore.

My much admired corporate spy, Hugh MacLeod, said a couple days ago: “I could also go on about how many good people I know are caught in oversupplied markets, and how every day they wake up, feeling chilled to the bone with dread and unease. Advertising and media folk are classic examples.”

In an oversupplied market, only the most cutthroat competition, the trickiest maneuvers, the whims of luck can advance the individual, and even then, only for a short time.  In an oversupplied market, we becomed preoccupied with show biz, and dangerously disconnected from real needs of real people.

How to avoid this trap?  As a nation, we’ve fallen straight into it, and will now be forced to claw our way out, one hopes with some grace and aplomb.  As individual business owners, we can be shrewd about avoiding oversupplied markets by seeking the creative core of our work and marketing with profound compassion.

Capitalism and competition both glory in human greed, and fundamentally depend on its continuous increase.  But the shadow side to this world view looms large today, and we are learning about its inherently destructive nature.  Perhaps appropriately for a nation beginning to move beyond adolescence, America must undertake a vision quest, seek effective ways of handling our growing population, and find new fulfillment through cooperation and profound individual creativity.