Friday, September 19, 2008

Ah yes, there was a reason I went to college and spent those hours in symposiums senior year discussing political philosophy and considering other systems besides the free market capitalism model, although it seemed somewhat pointless in the real world at the time. We knew the Republican and Democratic viewpoints were both slight variants on the free market system, but times were ok relative to the Great Depression so those differences didn't matter much. But now it is all coming into focus again.

The key difference is this, and I'll use an analogy: Republicans think that government should help private companies build the train track and trust that they will do the right thing and spend some of their earnings maintaining that train track and that government should stay out of their way or quit meddling with the wisdom of the private enterprises' right to spend their profits as they see fit.

Democrats wisely believe that someone has to make sure that the track is being maintained. Republicans will only act to fix the track after a train derails and people are killed. Democrats, if allowed to do so, use taxes and earmark those funds to make sure someone is maintaining the track, so the derailment never happens on account of neglect.

How many times do we have to relearn the same lesson? The Grover Norquists, George W. Bushes and John McCains of the world are for deregulation at all costs...until they are against them (well, except for Norquist, who doesn't have to decide anything other than advocate for elimination of government at all costs). Private companies under a Republican administration know they can cross the line because if the shit hits the fan, "big government" (normally their bugaboo) can always bail them out.

Back in the symposium days, one of the books we read was Strong Democracy by Benjamin R. Barber...which advocated, among other things, town hall meetings like the ones we see today. This is the same Benjamin Barber that in later years wrote the rather stiff "Jihad vs. McWorld," but he still has a lot of interesting things to say. This article of his puts things into greater focus.

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