Monday, October 10, 2011

Laissez (un)Faire: Thoughts on National Priorities and How Finland Undermines Individualists' "Logic"

First, what the strict constitutionalists and laissez fairians don't understand is that it's not about right and left, it's about exalting the individual vs. the common weal, and ultimately, it's about deciding how to use and distribute resources. Second, if Ron Paul had been president during WWII, we'd all be speaking German today.

Just Impeachy! The Tea Party Rally
in April 2009 in Hartford, CT
Traditionally, the right in this country is focused only on the individual, and as Ronald Reagan said "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps." This laissez faire (laissez unfaire) approach completely ignores the fact that not everyone starts out with the same opportunities. And even if one assumed that they did, those who believe that there's more to the social contract than exalting or enabling individual and privilege ahead of the common good, believe that all people should live a life of respect and have self-worth. This is, to me, the great divide not being addressed over at the Forum

The neo conservatives in this country--currently represented by the hard right wing of the Tea Party--believe in a pure market capitalist system where government is diminished (and in some cases, eliminated altogether). What's ironic about this (and the right really was never all that big on the whole irony thing), is that deregulation and zero oversight is what led to the meltdown of 2008 in the first place. As Paul Krugman, that liberal pinata for the right wrote so eloquently today:
"What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens. 
Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families."
But ultimately, it's about choices and priorities. Some countries believe in the greater good over the needs of the individual. Countries like Finland, for example. 

Finland: A Successful Capitalist Country
that Chose its Priorities: Housing as a Basic Right.
In Finland, they Decided to Eliminate Homelessness. That was a prioritized policy decision: it wasn't wild eyed marxism, it was a choice. They're a capitalist society. They're successful. People aren't lazy and haven't been destroyed by intrusive government. They made a choice and it appears to be working for them. Unlike the rightists in this country, who exalt the individual over the greater good, many countries support their populations. They don't call them entitlements--that's an American construct. Finland? They strive mightily to ensure that their people--whoever they are--have shelter. Are they run by marxists denying freedoms? Um, no, they're very economically successful. They are however, one of the most educated countries on the planet. (source: the liberal rag WSJ).  According to the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless:

Perhaps the most concerted and successful effort to deal with homelessness is in Finland where, after the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless in 1987, the Government devised a multifaceted response to the problem. It included building of social housing, the creation of social welfare and health care services, and setting a target to provide a dwelling of minimum standards for every homeless person. The number of single homeless persons at that time was approximately 18 000. In just 10 years, the number of homeless in Finland was cut in half.

But the Finnish must be miserable, right? Wrong. They're consistently some of the happiest people on the planet, according to the international "happiness index." They just defined what is a basic right and applied that definition to public policy.

Shock and Awe: A Collective Decision to March to Madness
 to the tune of $1 Trillion and Countless Lives Lost
In the United States, we Make Choices Too! (Just not very Good Ones.) Other countries, are less united about social policies and their national priorities. So, political right leaders United States, believe that all people start at the same point, and if you're unemployed or otherwise struggling, that it must be a personal defect. The left disagrees with this.

Instead of focusing on social programs, we focused on fear of the non-existent variety. We decided, for example, to invade a country that didn't attack us based on lies and insidious fear mongering. It cost the country $1 trillion dollars (half of the national debt from WWII to 1980), tens of thousands of lives, and pariah status in much of the world.

Opportunity Cost? We don't need no Stinkin' Opportunity Cost. The Iraq war was our choice as a country. We could have spent that money on improving education, or to provide housing, or to make healthcare more affordable, but no. Instead? We went to war based on lies and allowed its architects not only to remain free, but to make lots of money. What I don't understand is where the outrage was while the Bush administration was destroying the country. The end of the Bush administration saw the rise of the Tea Party which was, at the outset, mostly an anti-Government, anti-Obama movement--in spite of protestations to the contrary. 

Like the Interwebs? Who doesn't? But remember
it's brought to you by Gummint Socialistics!
Government Off our Backs? Okay, Shut Off the Computer, Please. The free market isn't the end all solution, and in fact, it's precisely because of an unfettered free market and a decided lack of limits on Wall Street that the economy melted down in the first place. Who is responsible for that?

As for those who revile the evils of interventionist government I say... 

...If you don't speak German as a native language, ach! It's the result of government intervention that took over the economy and helped save the world from fascism. If Ron Paul had been president, our national anthem would probably be "Deutschland Uber Alles.

...if you drive a car on the highway, please stop doing that! It's the result of socialist government intervention!

...If you are using the Internet, please stop now! DARPA, a federally funded entity, invented it and that's socialism that you're supporting--cease and desist!

...if your parents or grandparents get a social security check--go quickly, and take it away from them! That's socialism!! Those people are bloodsuckers!!


  1. Excellent article, but for one thing: your point that "if Ron Paul had been president", we'd have lost WWII. Quite wrong. Germany had already clearly lost WWII when we entered the fray. WWII (in Europe and Western Eurasia) was a war between Germany and the USSR. Everything else was a minor skirmish by comparison.

  2. I feel that, as long as were discussing socialism and the welfare state, you might also have mentioned that Continental Illinois, the sixth largest bank in the U.S. at the time, was taken over by the U.S. Government in 1984. That's right, the sixth largest bank at the time in the U.S. was SOCIALIZED during President Ronald Reagan's first term. The Savings and Loan bailouts that occurred during the administration of President George H. W. Bush were a form of SOCIALISM, too. Lest we forget the TARP act, too. All were very SOCIALIST in their nature. So the key difference between the Left and the Right as I see it is, who gets the tax payers money.

  3. Where you state "it's about exalting the individual vs. the common weal", I believe you must mean the "common will"?

  4. @dloberk: No, it's an Olde English word, that's the basis for "wealth/well being":

    noun formal
    that which is best for someone or something : I am holding this trial behind closed doors in the public weal.
    ORIGIN Old English wela [wealth, well-being] ; related to well 1 .

    Think Commonwealth of Virginia: Common Wealth = Common Weal

    ~ G