Monday, September 29, 2008

Where's W?

"The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much."

-- Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), Wall Street, 1987.

Nice to see that America learned from that era. 1987 was the end of the faux boom caused by massive deregulation. Greed, like nuclear reactions, tribbles, kittens, drugs, or masturbation, is only good with regulation. Without regulation - such as rules that limit monopolization, shady trading, speculation, perpetual refinement of palming off nothing as something - capitalism was free to beeline toward its ultimate end: one incredibly rich person with everything and everyone else with nothing. Many tried, many came close, and then on Black Monday 1987 people suddenly realized they owned millions of shares of nothing verifiable. The system began to collapse, propped up only by a huge taxpayer bailout in what was then called the S&L scandal.

Blame goes all around. Republicans, democrats, traders, rich people, the media, oleagenous oil barons, brown people, the war, etc. Nobody blames the American voting public. Nobody in America, anyway. Even this collapse will probably not be enough to produce fundamental change. The economic fracas will occur again in the next generation. Similarly, we'll get involved in another expensive war, offset by increasingly sophisticated ideological distraction. Abortion. Gay marriage. Prayer in schools. Some horrific new threat from The Scientists. Gutting moose. The technology behind weapons of mass distraction will continue to evolve much faster than any countering force. Credit may be restored, but credibility will utterly collapse. Nobody will trust anyone, and with good reason. The ensuing fortress mentality will feed back into the alienation mindset, us versus them, it's all Their fault and They deserve it. So obvious, so predictable, and so unstoppable.

Because stopping it would require education, critical thinking, teaching the American populace skills that might make them more discerning consumers and voters. This would create the risk that people might not buy your product or heed the dominant paradigm. There's far more money in the opposite extreme, embodied by the anti-intellecutalism that won the last two presidential elections. Idealism always loses; it just sometimes seems to win when pragmatists wield it to confuse, deceive, and control. Ah well. I wonder how I can make money off this cycle next time?

"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of
constitutional power." --Thomas Jefferson

People had more faith in our leaders back then. Too bad America today did not have some kind of figurehead, a widely recognized leader with great influence within the executive branch, someone who could come out and urge the populace to support Congress and the Paulson plan. Or perhaps who could have been more proactive in preventing this situation. We needed you, Oprah.

"Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

-- Winston Churchill, 1947, when that statement was true.

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