September 19, 2008

Can't Get There From Here on this Earth

I'm sure my socialist brother-in-law feels exactly the same way I do: why can't he see what I do? It's almost like there's a selective outrage gene. I can barely gin up any outrage over a CEO from whom I expected exactly nothing, while my bro-in-law is so mad he can't see straight.

For him, it is just absolutely, positively, the greatest injustice that the CEO of AIG made a quadzillion dollars and is getting bailed out by the government for his sins.

For him it proves that the capitalist system doesn't work and, of course, he may be right since the government takeovers are defacto anti-captitalistic. (As I read on another blog somewhere, "we're all Communists now!").

The root question: Do I want to get even with the CEO of AIG so much that I'm willing to lose my house and my 401k savings and everything else just so I can have the satisfaction of AIG not getting bailed out? No, not me. Maybe others would. Or some might say Greenspan is full of bull, which takes a helluva lot of moxie.

But why not go even deeper?

Let's say you were starving. You're on a desert island. You've been without food for a couple weeks.

And amazingly you find a hidden cache of food!

Only it's terrible food. There are two choices: one is a huge pile of beef jerky and it's really hard and looks pretty sucky. The other is attractive and tasty-looking hamburgers, only they've been laced with arsenic. You know this because you see dead bodies next to the hamburger pile and they have little signs saying, "Don't eat the hamburger! It's poison!"

That's your choices. You don't get nice tasty hamburgers that are arsenic-free.

Which do you choose?

Do you say, "Beef Jerky sucks! I hate it!" Or do you say, "beef jerky sucks, but it's the best of all possible choices I have. I'll eat the beef jerky even though it isn't nutritious and I'm not sure it'll keep me alive."

Same here with capitalism and socialism. Socialism is the poison hamburger. Capitalism is the beef jerky. This ain't paradise.

As Rich Lowry writes,
"Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst system except all the others. The same could be said of capitalism. There is no way to eliminate all the human failings — greed, exuberance, shortsightedness, fear and ignorance — that created the predicates of this crisis and are fueling it now. If we pretend there is, we only foster another illusion."
So this crisis is beyond politics. It's not about Republican or Democrat. It's more fundamental.

It transcends the silliness of the oversight role of the Congressional Banking Committee (why do we have such committees again?). It's not about this painful Bush bail-out.

It's simply that greed and stupidity are epidemic enough that it's extremely hard to regulate where it's going to pop up. We are always behind, always regulating only after something happened. We're always closing the barn door after the horse is out. Why? Because of fallen human nature.

My brother-in-law says that "Man is inherently good." Isn't that the key difference between liberals and conservatives? Or is that an illusion too because, after all, Democrats want more regulation. But the regulators need to be smart and good, two attributes in short supply these days. So the fault, dear people, lies not in our captialistic system or maybe even our leaders, but ultimately in ourselves.

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