Sunday, August 19, 2012

Still the Economy, Stupidly

Last week I talked about how if we're going to throw money at our economic problems, we should atleast know how to throw it so it does the most good. This week I would like to talk about how I look at the US economy in general.

In general, I believe that the free market system, competitive capitalism, and private enterprise create the greatest opportunities for the greatest number of people. However, I also believe that for every winner, there is a loser. I believe that for every hard-working, fair-minded individual there is a cheat and a crook.

The free market system is wonderful, but what about those countries like Japan or China that are not as free as us, but request/demand access to our market? How can we compete with China, Inc? Japan spent years making little or no profits in various US markets so they could squeeze their way in. Now look at them: they have helped squeeze us out of television manufacturing and almost all other electronics completely. Our "free market" let them do it, while their market was nearly 100% closed to non-Japanese companies. Do we demand tariffs on these juggernauts? Do we educate our countrymen not to put US companies out of business? Do we come up with some other solution? I don't know.

How about competitive capitalism? This is another great idea in theory, but just look at the effect super-stores like Wal-Mart and Meijer have had on Mayberry RFD. "Ma and Pa" local groceries are all but extinct because they cannot compete. Do you even remember that we used to have "IGA" (Independent Grocery Association) stores throughout the country? They're all but extinct. Chains have nation-wide clout to demand (and receive) special bulk rates on goods like cookies, Cokes, and pickles. Local retail stores can't match their leverage power, so have to charge more. The average consumer doesn't care; they see a "good deal" and buy at Wal-Mart, perpetuating the cycle. So don't take a local ad to Wal-Mart for them to match the price! Just go to the original store to help keep *them* in business! This is why I will not shop at Wal-Mart unless I absolutely have to.

Lastly, about private enterprise. They are just that: private corporations that do not care about the public good. Lead paint in toys not healthy? Not my kids. Smog polluting the sky, or waste water polluting the rivers? I live out of town. Sure, the stereotype of the robber baron raping the land for profit *is* melodramatic, but we all know of actual cases where greedy people tried to get away with more than they should have.

And this is where regulation comes in. I'm not asking for the US government to run US businesses. I have seen that type of economy with my own eyes in China and Japan; it's not capitalism and it's not a free market. (Japanese government majority-owned Japan Air Lines, for example. They also majority-owned Japan Tobacco, which created the very odd situation where Japan Government Health Department had to publicly announce that smoking is *not* bad for you. I'm not kidding.) Instead of having the US government get more involved in private enterprise, what we need in the US is to strengthen the bipartisan audit systems we have in place. We need to catch the next Enron or Fannie Mae before the greedy bastards' houses of cards collapse, dragging millions of hard-working Americans down with them.

The United States is "too big to fail." We need bipartisan auditing from independant agencies to guarantee (i.e. regulate) that all parties *are* playing fairly.

Call me naive, but I don't consider this Socialism or more Big Brother-ism. I call it Capitalism.

I find it sad that Republicans seem to trust that businessmen, if left to their own devices, will do what is "right." This is the "trickle down" theory and the argument against government activities like The New Deal. Democrats, meanwhile, seem to oddly think that no one is trying to cheat the welfare system. This is the "safety net" theory and the argument for MORE money for welfare programs. To tell you the truth, I think they're both wrong, but blinded by partisanship they can only see the other guys' mistakes.

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