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Unchecked Capitalism

So, you may or may not know this, but I believe that unchecked capitalism is the root of a substantial majority of our society’s problems. People in power have proven over and over again that they can rarely be trusted to wield it wisely (here, “wisely” means “with the interests and freedom of the greater society in mind”, not “for the greatest benefit of a select few”) if they they are left to their own devices. Really, that fact is the basis for the creation of our system of government.

To that end, there are a lot of industries that I believe should be socialized or forced to become non-profit ventures. At the very least, they need much tighter regulation. We have too much reliance on these industries as a society to allow “the market” to shape them. Examples of this are health care, insurance, banking, and communications. Our current economic situation is an example of a (hopefully) worst case scenario of what happens when these institutions are allowed to run amok. Now, the government is stepping in to “save the economy”, which in the end seems to mean rewarding the people running these industries for irresponsible behavior at the expense of the taxpayers.

As discussed today over at Techdirt , we have a chance to make some positive changes with the various “bailouts” that are happening, especially now that we’ve starting seeing just how ineffective the banking bailout from last year is proving to be. Every indication points to this bailout money ending up lining the pockets of the proven-to-be-irresponsible incumbents, with little attention paid to the long term effects of what we are doing or providing for real sustainability. Instead, we are foolishly focusing on short-term gains, perhaps ultimately doing more harm than good.

And maybe that’s part of why we are so unwilling to socialize, or partially socialize, these industries. It would be really hard. If we can’t even build an effective bailout, how can we expect to completely refactor an industry? There’s the old saw about “the American way” and “free markets” and whatnot too, but it seems like someone would be smart enough to break from that dogma. Maybe there are people in positions of power who see how that might solve some of our problems, but are too afraid to put their name on the line. Doing this well would be tremendously difficult, and we’re almost sure to get it wrong on the first try. In addition, wresting power like this from the people who currently have it would be another war in and of itself. Especially with as corrupt as the House and Senate have become. But ultimately, if we aren’t going to collapse under the weight of our own greed, something must be done to fundamentally change the system. We’ve been treating the symptoms for the last several decades. Where has that gotten us?

If these industries were under more social control, perhaps bailouts wouldn’t be necessary. Perhaps foreclosures wouldn’t be at an all time high. Maybe the economy wouldn’t be in the worst condition it has been since the 70′s (or by some measures, the Great Depression). The top 5% (1%?) also wouldn’t be quite as rich, but I bet the rest of us would be a lot better off. Is anyone going to step up and start making changes that actually change things for the better, or are we just going to keep the fiscal morphine flowing?

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