Thursday, April 02, 2009

Chief engineer favors greater buoyancy on the Titanic

The old Marxist saw that capitalism destroys itself could use a little more action these days.

Instead, we are treated to lectures about "living beyond our means" -- because the average person turns to credit for lack of income; or because home ownership seems smart when real estate is appreciating faster than any other sector of the US economy.

Now that the game is over, the public is blamed for playing the very part the rich had constructed for them. By this logic, the average family should have known that what every expert and industry chucklehead said was a good investment, wasn't really a good investment.

This "everybody is to blame"-style rhetoric deliberately glosses over the distribution of power in society. When the fundamentals of our economy are entrusted to unaccountable institutions which make investment decisions privately for their own gain, it is hard to comprehend how the public can be in a position to second-guess what is going on. As such, these kinds of arguments are designed to devolve responsibility from the top to the bottom, thus rationalizing the publicly-funded rescue of those at the top.

The argument that capitalism requires rules -- and therefore rulemakers -- for the sake of its own stability is endlessly repeated in times of crisis. The problem is that it is handily ignored in times of "prosperity." It should hardly be surprising that a system premised on the notion of maxim profit for the profit-maker will tend toward the elimination of any legal obstacle placed in its way. After all, with the wealth of the nation already in their hands, the writing of law in one's own favor is best categorized as a business expense.

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