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September 22, 2008Counting on Greed
It strikes me that the crisis we are seeing unfolding before our
eyes, not just on Wall Street by the way, but everywhere this financial
crisis reaches, signals something that ought to be clear to Republicans
and Democrats, and any other political ideologue: we can't count on
greed to get to compassion, kindness, social justice, etc. And yet,
counting on greed has been the underlying assumption of so much economic
policy and social tinkering. To be sure, Capitalism might require
competition and a certain mercenary attitude, but I also think along
with Herman Daly, Paul Hawken, and David Korten, that we can work to
build wealth rather than just profit, that we can be successful
(individually and socially) without making everything just be an
exercise in greed.
This is a fundamental dilemma for me with trickle down policies most
frequently championed by conservatives. Of course I have the same
objection if those type of policies are pushed by liberals/progressives.
Giving unfettered power to some folks to enrich themselves is said to
result in the benefit of all. Wealth trickles down some say, in various
forms. Let me be clear: I don't completely disagree with the premise
that posits benefits accruing from judicious investment of resources. We
can all agree on benefits that result from particular research
expenditures, changes in attitudes, dispositions, unintended
consequences, and so on. But, such a dictum is by no means gospel, and
it strikes me as very different from the kind of policies that
facilitated the financial crisis we now face. The results demonstrate
that such unfettered power has resulted, and is likely to continue
resulting, in distress to more vulnerable segments of the population.
There is a greed there, not an enlightened self-interest, that rots
policies crafted on such assumptions from the very core. Sadly, we've
become quite numb and scared, after years of being savaged as commies,
socialists, pinkos, bleeding hearts, etc., to mount strong arguments
against such rottenness.