My dad taught me a long time ago that blindly following any ideology to it’s final, inevitable, conclusion ends up in failure. He used the example of Communism, and the various forms of starvation that were caused by blind following of its tenets. I mean, Communism sounds really nice when you first hear about it, “From each according to ability, to each according to need.” Isn’t that nice? Of course it is! It just never works out that way.
I think I’m forced to say the same thing happens with my sorta-political-philosophy – Libertarianism. I think it has some nice things going for it too – an idea of minimal government, and the efficiencies of markets. Those are things not to be abandoned, for certain. But the failures of the banks and the fact that the government cannot allow them to fail makes me despair for true Laissez-faire capitalism.
I think the best system is probably a sorta Hagelian ‘Synthesis’ of the various opposing philosophies – Communism: FAIL. Pure Republican-style Laissez-faire capitalism:FAIL. Effective systems will be somewhere…in the middle.
I think the problem is this – true Libertarianism requires the government to play “chicken” with its people. Somebody says, “Hey! I’m going to do something stupid and awful! HAHAHAAH!” And the government has to say, “OK, do whatever you want, as long as you don’t screw with anyone else…” and in the end – somebody’s got to blink. And the government does, and I don’t blame it. Got no health insurance? Well, the hospitals will catch you. Forgot to save for retirement? Social security. Whoops! You invested all your money in stupid, stupid horrible things that are now worthless? OK, let’s see what we can do to shore up prices. Oh, you bought a house you cannot afford? We’ll fix the mortgage for you.
And actually typing these things makes me sad – but I think the government has to act in many, if not all, of these cases. It simply has no other alternative. If it let the banks fail, we could have a full on depression on our hands. Sure, then everyone who botched pays the price – good, fuck ’em – but too many innocents do too. I made sure not to buy a house, even as banks were screaming at me to take their money – why? Because it made no financial sense for me to do so. Good for me. But not good for me, because the government woulda bailed me out anyways.
Maybe you could blame everything on the Fed…I know, I place a lot of blame on them – my standard argument is that they react quickly to lower rates, but never to raise them. We could’ve avoided a lot of this (hindsight being 20/20 of course) by doing some serious bumping up of some rates when we started to see the real estate market go nuts. Only a few people would’ve gotten hurt, and much of this might have been prevented.
But I did some research – and even without Central Banks, various bank failures and credit crunches occurred in the past, just driven by private investors and such. So you can’t say “well, abolish central banking and then you have your libertarian paradise…” Still no. Though my argument, in the end, would be that if your central bank can’t prevent depressions, and neither can no central bank, then maybe you might as well have none.
My problem now is I would like to figure out some heuristic or algorithm or something for where the government should stop – once you have them crossing that line, when does it end? Guns? You can’t have ’em, you might hurt yourself. Alcohol (my precious BEER!) – no more for you. Etc. What’s the rule of thumb to say where government will ‘blink’ and step in, and where it won’t? What’s to keep us from just having it grow and grow and grow and never end? And I don’t know the answer. And that bugs me.
Maybe the model is “government’s job is regulation.” E.g., don’t have the government directly doing stuff, just have it regulating the doing of the stuff. What does that mean – private police forces? Private armies? I don’t like that. Ugh. It’s all muddled. Or perhaps, it’s not any more muddled than it was before, and I just see the muddledness more than I did? I don’t know.
I really don’t know!