When you think republican or conservative extremism you probably think of the birther movement or the guy(s) showing up with a machinegun to a political event. But the extremism I was thinking about is more mainstream economic extremism. The general idea of capitalism and democracy is that businesses should remain somewhat autonomous and people should remain somewhat autonomous, but that the government has the right to restrict peoples’ or businesses’ behavior if it impacts on the happiness, safety etc of others in society. So I can buy whatever car I like but if that car is unsafe the government can tell them to recall it and fix the problem. And I can then drive wherever I like… so long as I don’t do it on the sidewalk or breeze past a school crosswalk at 60 miles per hour.
This is the type of society we live in, with a nice balance between freedom and responsibility for both people and corporations.
But in the republican party there is a movement to basically strip away all government regulations with the rationalization that companies and the free market will police themselves. This is no less ludicrous than saying if we get rid of the police people will police themselves. Some people will of course, but the police exist because many people will not – this is a fact of our situation. Many companies will choose not to put lead in their paint, but if it’s cheaper and looks nicer, some will continue to do so. Will this cause the company to then go under? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. There are many instances where a bad product or company will collapse and the creative destruction of natural selection will keep the economy humming along. But there are many examples where it will not – mainly examples where the perceived short-term benefit outweighs the long-term cost or where people are unaware of the long-term cost. In other words I get to have a juicy cheeseburger today but I won’t have heart problems for 30 more years. People eat food that’s bad for them because for many immediate gratification outweighs the long-term downside. People will buy cigarettes because they’re addictive despite them being insanely expensive, deadly and causing a host of other health problems with virtually zero upside. If this “the free market will correct itself” ideology consistently worked, cigarette companies would have gone out of business long ago, or at least stopped putting tar and shit into their products to make them more addictive (and less healthy).
If the free-market were some all-powerful force for good that consistently works people wouldn’t smoke crack. But they do, because human behavior and economics it’s not that simple or black and white. The mafia is bad for society, why hasn’t the free market put and end to them yet? It’s not so simple is it? Another example of this is walmart. They are immensely popular – in fact they are the largest employer in the world and have not a thousand or ten thousand, but over two million employees. They are going strong and expanding all the time, and why not? They offer bulk products at ridiculously low rates. So people will continue to shop there. But what they also do is exploit cheap foreign labor and provide products at costs so low american companies can’t compete which contributes to unemployment and the diminishing quality of life of those who do have jobs because their companies make less money. But people act against their own interests and the interests of society at large because there is a practical short-term benefit.
People are not perfect or all-knowing, most people are just trying to make ends meet any way they can. Does capitalism work? Yes, but to an extent. Sometimes the government has to step in and fix problems.
Another example is healthcare, especially for seniors, the disabled and the poor. Will the free market solve this problem? No. Because it’s not profitable to give health insurance or healthcare to people who have the bulk of our healthcare costs (the disabled and elderly) or people who can’t pay. Will charity fix this problem, as many republican congressmen have suggested, including ron paul? No. In 2010 americans gave 290 billion dollars to charity. And while that is a lot of money it doesn’t go as far as you might think in a country with 300 million people. If you stole every penny donated to every single charity in the US and put it toward just one cause – paying for healthcare for seniors, it would leave 1 in 4 seniors without healthcare and fuck over every single other charity. Actually it probably would leave about half of seniors without healthcare, since by law hospitals that take medicare have to charge lower rates.
Charities, as wonderful as they are, are woefully inadequate when it comes to entirely solving society’s problems. Someone asked me on my blog why I want the government to fix problems when politicians are so corrupt – it’s honestly because they’re pretty much the only game in town.
Another side to this philosophy of business = good and government = bad is the idea that corporations should do basically everything – lets privatize social security, lets privatize medicare, lets privatize the post office. The problem with that is that there’s a reason the government does all of those things, it’s because private companies either won’t or can’t. Can private companies deliver packages and mail? Sure. But not with universal coverage. So unless you want PostalCo to only deliver where there are cell phone towers and enough people to justify the expense, better to have the post office. We even let UPS and the rest do their thing too. Medicare and medicaid obviously can’t be privatized, it amazes me that people actually argue for that.
If the government becomes a business then it’s services will go only to those who can pay. Were you raped? Can’t afford a rape kit and DNA sequencing, the federal DNA database administrative fee and a few thousand dollars for a PoliceCo detective to investigate and submit a report to JudgeCo to decide if you have a case? Too bad. But on the bright side you probably couldn’t afford the services of JudgeCo or PrisonCorp anyway, so don’t feel so bad. But you enjoy that nice tax cut.
The only people who would favor privatizing government are people who have never missed a meal or wondered how they’re going to pay their rent this month or gone to work every morning hoping to god they never get sick or hurt. They’re spoiled assholes who live on a fluffy white cloud alternating between multiple mansions in gated communities with armed guards circling 24 hours a day, whose worries are nothing like yours. Or rather they are the origin of the ideology – virtually every single pundit in america is in the above category and has been selling their ideology with fear and nationalism so long poor people vote and campaign against their own interests.
I mentioned extremism in the blog title because I think there is a lot of it in the economic policies of the republican party. The system that we have enjoyed for centuries is one where we have the government do some things and private companies do others. As I mentioned in a previous blog 8 out of 10 of the amendments in the bill of rights refer to socialized government institutions the founders wanted us to have. The idea of the government doing stuff for people is not new, nor was it invented by communists who simply took it to an extreme. The term “welfare” comes from the constitution, which says the purpose of taxes and the federal government is to provide for a common defense and promote the general welfare. It’s in both the preamble and the body of the text. The idea that it’s un-american for the government to do anything but fight wars is just pro-corporate propaganda.
There are two extremes of economics – one is absolute socialism, or communism – the idea that the government should do absolutely everything and that all property should be public property. The other is that everything should be private property and the government should do little or nothing. Our system is a compromise between the two extremes. But of those two extremes only one (absolute capitalism) is ever represented in our political system, and it is staunchly supported by republican candidates. This is why I titled the blog the way I did, I honestly think the party’s economic ideas are on the fringe and seriously need to be pulled back toward the middle.
Anyway, hope you found this interesting, sorry if it’s a bit long.