The latest issue of BusinessWeek, a national periodical, is titled “The Future of Kapitalism” and features Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in a post reminiscent of Vladimir Lenin. Wikipedia suggests the technique of replacing C with K in names started with the Yippies, but I remember it as a common tactic in punk rock for arguing that “Amerika” was really a fascist state. Unfortunately, what was humorous hyperbole in the 80s seems almost too real today. It is remarkable that a mainstream magazine would offer up this analysis by implication if not explicitly.
The lead story from the magazine catches a Federal Reserve executive quoting Deng Xiaoping, the dictator who wrested power from Mao in China: “No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat, as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.” This ugly expression of pragmatism actually signaled progress for China, but for a nation founded on freedom, it’s a dark sign. We ought to act on principle. Even if we adopt mistaken principles, we are far better than the cynics who adopt the idea that no principle is useful. “Anything could work, at least for a while, so why not try it?”–this is the path that makes possible any atrocity in the name of the greater good.
The article calls it ironic that a Republican administration ushered in these dangerous new powers for the treasury, but this is exactly the situation that had to happen eventually. The conservative movement has had the “what” of economic policy right but they never had the “why”. They always argued the pragmatic case, that capitalism was right because it produces the most wealth. Capitalism is right because it protects our natural right to property. It isn’t a terrible system that simply happens to be the best we can come up with. It is a perfect system derived from things we can observe about reality.
The weakness on the Republicans’ part has been demonstrated by “compassionate conservatives”. They tend to act on that compassion with misplaced mercy. Mercy is the negation of justice. It is the act of denying justice to save someone from their own folly. And so, we see fools who ran their banks with dangerous abandon rescued. For the businessmen who were cautious, who did what they could to protect their future–and therefore their employees–will be asked to give up the wealth they’ve earned so that it might be given to losers. I suppose there isn’t much compassion left over to be felt for the responsible people.
I hope the election is taken as a mandate by congress to reverse this dangerous course. This can happen if a significant number of incumbents are thrown out, and if Obama can hold on to win the election.