There can be no doubt that capitalism has provided man with the opportunity to use his inventiveness, initiative and entrepreneurial spirit to advance society and create opportunity for all throughout America’s history.
But there is nothing free about free enterprise. Our history is replete with examples when speculation and greed were rampant leading to periodic recessions and depressions culminating in the Great Depression, which began with the stock market crash of 1929. In recent years we have seen a renewal of this historical cycle. We are still trying to recover from the Great Recession of 2008.
Today’s modern day reactionary and so-called conservative grudgingly admits the need for government but finds the use of regulations and taxation to be restrictive and tyrannical. In elevating property to be on an equal plain with liberty they find the concept of equality to be an impediment to their seeking wealth. When it comes to taxation, if taxes are not spent on the military they conveniently find any other expenditures not part of the enumerated clauses of the Constitution and thereby they are viewed as a form of servitude. They want to keep what they have earned stating that they know how to spend their money better than those who work in government. Some of these reactionaries believe or espouse that there is no need for government at all and that somehow we can self govern ourselves. The idea that we can self govern ourselves or self police ourselves is a fiction.
What we are really talking about, is that it is all about me. We live in a society of great excess, where one can never be wealthy enough. The ideas of Ayn Rand have gained popularity in justifying behavior where greed has become the truth of the day. They even use religion to bolster their behavior by claiming in these mega churches that God wants you to be wealthy.
David McCullough, in his book about John Adams, stated that Adams greatest concern about whether or not our Republic would survive were two things, one being man’s tendency to want to be led and the other his tendency to be greedy. That has never been truer than today when once again we have the greatest disparity of income between those who are wealthy and the middle class and the poor.
Let us first discuss whether government is necessary. The word politics comes from the Greek, meaning of the people. There is a negative reason for government and a positive reason for governing as well.
James Madison is Federalist#51, stated,” But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
We have seen repeated examples of the necessity for other precautions with newer and newer Ponzi schemes, designed to rip people off through fraud and theft. Don’t forget that Charles Ponzi sold swampland in Florida and thank you but no, I don’t want any swampland.
Thomas Paine was even more negative about why we have the need for government and in his book, “Common Sense,” he wrote, ” Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the later negatively by restraining our vices.” “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil.”
We face the very great danger and possibility of repeating history once again as we see the top 1 1/2 percent of the people control so much of the nations wealth and the rest of us are seeing our average wages go down and down some more. Cheap labor brings greater profits to large companies but it is bankrupting our country.
John Kenneth Galbraith in his classic book,” THE GREAT CRASH 1929,” listed as the number one cause of the Great Depression, the “bad distribution of income.” The economy of 1929 was too dependent on the ‘high level of investment or a high level of luxury consumer spending or both.”
He also said that,” the chance for a recurrence of a speculative orgy remains good. No one can doubt that the American people remain susceptible to the speculative mood–to the conviction that enterprise can be attended by unlimited rewards in which they, individually, were meant to share.”
We hear from radio talk show hosts, the apostles of wealth, preaching that you, too, can become a millionaire. Well, guess what? Very few of us will become millionaires. Yes, we should have the opportunity to do so, and we all would like to hit the lottery, but let’s face it what are the odds of that happening?
Government was intended to protect us against ourselves, our greed and our bassist impulses. That is why we have laws, rules by which we live by and to limit the amount of Ponzi schemes, and punish those offenders.
In the hands of a government determined to enforce the laws, we can be protected, but the laws were not enforced before the debacle of 2008. Our officials looked the other way, while the banks took advantage of greed and thought the good times would never end.
Even some Republican conservatives give Franklin Roosevelt credit for saving capitalism from itself, by instituting regulations and rule sets to limit greed.
We can hear the chorus of those who excoriate Roosevelt and his programs, that helped to create a social democracy. We heard those same voices during the Depression and we hear them now. They fear rules and regulations that make it more difficult to rip people off.
We need a new sense of morality today, not the false sense of reality when people put their trust in business men, believing that they will be honest and good. We went that way once too often and we got the Great Depression. History is repeating itself now with banks that are too big too fail, and when men who have stolen from us don’t go to jail. The only one who went to jail, Madoff, went to jail only because he stole from the rich.
“Ill fares the land, no hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.” Oliver Goldsmith, the Deserted Village, 1770
More to come, this is just Part I