Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Paradigms Found

By Carl

The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest. (emphasis added)

What is "freedom"?

Much has been made on the right wing of this body politic of the word freedom.

Conservatives claim to be the protectors of our freedom, but in reality, theirs is not a protection as much as it is a raping, for they honor the first part of this clause, the part that reads "pursuing our own good in our own way," while ignoring the balance of the equation, the "tyranny of the majority."

If you contemplate this dynamic, of almost libertine allowance of the plundering of our national resources, natural and human, you understand the great flaw of the right wing. One must give back to the community, because the community is what is being plundered for the self. The sheer act of plunder creates a situation where you "deprive others" of their freedom.

As a liberal and libertarian, to me, government is the balance for the equation. Good government guarantees individual freedom. Bad government steals it. For the past eight years, we've seen horrific government. We've allowed our freedoms to be eroded, and in return have seen nothing but heartache and misery.

The underlying flaw of any political or economic system -- democracy, capitalism, socialism, communism, even dictatorship -- is the human element: people cannot be easily predicted or controlled. In the right wing interpretation of a capitalist democracy, there is simply no accounting for the greed, avarice and rapaciousness of individuals.

Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalism, warns of this and suggests the only power great enough to deflect these basic human impulses is government.

The Republicans would ignore this, in the mode of Gordon Gecko of the movie Wall Street: Greed is good.

How much is enough? The world is not a win-win game, we've learned that hard lesson over the millenia.

How many billions must one billionaire have, and why? Those billions are earned on the backs of, well, billions of other people. It not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a millionaire and a planet to raise a billionaire.

The essence of humanity is to compete with each other, unless you've subsumed the Buddhist philosophy of not wanting. To want is to fight, to fight is to either win or lose.

It is the losers that government should protect. Government's sole responsibility should be to provide protection and opportunity for the people who need the most help, and not grease the wheels for those who are already on their way to success, such as it is defined in the current vernacular.

In point of fact, protecting the "losers", providing opportunity, promoting the general welfare, provides us all with a richer and yes more competitive atmosphere.

Smith's contention that individual self-interest benefits us all through innovation and efficiency's is not wrong and it is not lost in an economy that is governed by oversight, refereed with justice and judgement. It is enhanced. It lowers barriers to entry, deflects predatory practices (could you imagine the subprime mortgage market if there had been someone to say "Stop!" three or four years ago?), and makes rational choices, choices that humans in large numbers are incapable of, precisely because competition forces their hands to make irrational choices.

To cheat. To lie. To steal. These are "rational" only in terms of the game of capitalism, which honors fairness and honesty only when these are breached.

As liberals, we need to stress that we espouse "fair enterprise," to riff off the "fair trade" movement, capitalism with the human element recognized and protected.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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