LENNY MCALLISTER – Can America Remain A Free Market Society?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 21, 2009

images52Throughout the debate over the economic recovery package, TARP payments to banks, and other forms of bailouts, buyouts, and behavior geared to help the American economy get back on track, everyone seems focused on the role that government has taken. Conservatives continue to highlight their fears for the socialization of America, calls that were initially brought to us during the 2008 presidential campaign. Liberals tend to view the government’s response as a necessary and responsible approach to addressing a critical risk to our American way of life.

Regardless of one’s political leaning, it is clear to most that the role of government has expanded greatly. With this change, people are asking questions that seem core to the situation we face:

Should the federal government play the role of savior by bailing out failing organizations that made poor business decisions?

Should the federal government be in the business of keeping people in their homes after they fall behind or default completely on their mortgages?

Should the federal government in the business of providing the options for new jobs for Americans, particularly displaced workers?

These are issues worth the back and forth banter discussing their merits, but with the expansion of government, we should take one step back and ask a deeper, perhaps more pressing question:

Can America remain a free-market society?

People are asking this question based on economics while failing to look at the bigger picture. The behavior of economics exists primarily through the basic social behaviors enacted by the citizens engaging the economy.

A look at our current economic situation – and our national fiscal future – should be examined through our developing social trends.

Practically all of us have lived exclusively post-FDR’s New Deal. As well, multiple generations have lived after President Johnson’s Great Society movement. Many point to these legislative points in history as a reason behind the shift in thinking of what government should be for people. The expansion of government during these times redefined the American outlook on what legislators in Washington should devote their legislative and campaign efforts towards – namely, providing goods and services directed to American citizens and the voting public; (some would argue that this now involves providing services to those that fit into neither category, displaying a possible continued extension of governmental reach.) This is valid in some regards, although merely looking at the legislation without examining the factors prompting Washington’s actions (as conservatives are doing today) reeks of revisionist history at its worse. This is particularly true in the case of Johnson’s Great Society.

The turbulent 1960s were the aftermath of a bubbling society injustice incurred by African Americans for decades in America. Ironically, it took a mass movement, numerous deaths, and a wave of legislation to address the inequality faced by a significant portion of the nation’s people – of course, after a war was fought 100 years prior and a subsequent wave of legislation and social efforts followed it.

The same could be true for the treatment of women throughout American history until the 1960s. A similar example could be the treatment of American workers, prompting the existence of labor unions in the early 20th century.

The failure of American businesses to act responsibly – thus leading to this mass multi-tiered and –faceted bailout movement – is but a reflection of the same social traits that we exhibit towards ourselves.

Legislation that prompts us to adopt a pattern of behavior has always needed the force of additional governmental intervention (and more legislation) to ensure that the behavior was adhered to. American history shows us that everything from civil rights or gender rights and points in between (e.g., worker’s rights, child labor laws, etc.) needed the constant presence of the federal government for us to move forward. Each instance within American history where the federal government had to step in with legislation and other forms of hand-holding to guide the country back towards a sense of doing what it ought to do naturally, the result involved violence, bloodshed, loss of capital, and heavy social re-engineering before any successes could be found. We may not see the bloodshed that we incurred in the past, but we have already seen dreaded red ink and pink slips – and increased economic death – even after the first round of TARP distribution and various bail-out maneuvering.

Although we benefit ethically and fiscally from previous government efforts (and the maximized use of available American resources as a result), the inefficiency of government involvement to ensure good morals and common sense (backbone principles our nation was founded on) always risks a leakage of resource allocation that could be directed towards more beneficial and profitable endeavors. At a time when our resources are severely limited, we can ill-afford to waste anything: money, time, or manpower. As of now, we risk overextending all three to address this capital crisis.

The bigger risk, however, is not the allocation of American resources (be they money, legislative efforts, or human capital) to this problem. The larger social and political issue for America is that we have continued a pattern where government must set the direction for us to follow to guide ourselves out of difficulties and through situations we face. Some challenges may prompt action from larger authorities and organizations. However, we now live in a time where a growing majority of Americans look to laws to guide their morality and thinking. Repeated civil rights laws have been passed to prompt what should be obvious in a free market society: hire the best person for a job, regardless of skin color, so that you can maximize your business opportunities for success. Repeated laws and social “ways of being” have been incorporated to educate people on how to deal with particular life issues and problems. Legislation exists to make sure that common sense items like granting good parking spaces to the physically-challenged is ensured.

Should I really need a sign or an ordinance saying that I should give up my seat in the front of a bus to an 80-year-old with two bad knees, someone that I can clearly see is struggling to walk?

Some things can’t be legislated, not in a free market society.

Government continues to intervene in expansive ways. With the level of expansion that is going on – from the recovery package to whether you can appropriately spank your child – we dwindle the ability of the average American to make conscious, educated, and engaged decisions in everyday life, including economic decisions that impact not just her or his life, but the lives of neighbors all around as well. Without that fundamental ability intact, strong, and protected, the expansion of government will continue until we face a not-so-distant future where the socialization of America will have come about, not because of expansive government programs geared towards financially supporting major economic functions, but because American citizens are incapable of owning some responsibility within the economic to drive it as a free market society. Innovation involves both ownership and autonomy. Both of those traits require free thinking.

And at the rate of government expansion that we have seen in America over recent years, if we submit our free thinking to more legislation and government intervention, we forfeit our free market mentality as well.


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