Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Republican Game

Samuel Elliot Morrison and Henry Steele Commager, in their History of the American Republic, argue that Republicans of the 19th century lavished pensions on veterans to spend the money collected by protective tariffs, and prevent a budgetary surplus that might otherwise have fueled calls for the end of the tariffs.

They're still doing it.

If it weren't for our grotesquely outsized military budget, Social Security, which has collected surplus revenues for decades, might be so well invested as to live on dividends, or might have loaned to the US, at Treasury bond rates, the money needed for health care, renewable energy, or universal free education.

All of this is glossed over by the common guy because we have shiny things. Who cares if life in America is getting worse by the year? We have shiny things.

But it doesn't need to be this way. The choice is ours, if we care to make it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

They Had Their Chance

In the 20th century the free marketeers of America were given their opportunity to show what they could do. They had free natural gas, oil, and coal, not to mention millions of acres of timberland at give-away prices, they had the full sanction of the state, and, frequently, government assistance when they failed. And, most importantly they had a vast market, the people of the United States, generally prosperous, who were allowed to keep most of what they earned and spend it as they chose. How did this work out?

Well, simply, it was a disaster, proving mainly that the free market functions worse than even a king or dictator. That's a pretty damning comparison.

In some areas, like health care, we continue to get results that are about as good as other countries like us- but at twice the price. In most regards, the system has created widespread devastation and poverty, maintained only because other nations will still buy our debt, and ready to fail the next time the price of oil doubles.

It seems safe to say that the theories of the free markets are mainly propaganda and balderdash, indulged in by people who have no responsibility (or who, like Pinochet, feel no responsibility) for the welfare of their nation.

This can't be entirely unexpected. In the real world, markets are places that are regulated to provide a place where people buy and sell, but that's a larger story, and not necessary to draw the conclusion we do from the evidence- the "free" market has been a big failure. Stick a fork in it, it's done.