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April 2, 2009

There are options…

Patricia A. Kelly

Today General Motors has a new leader. The former CEO was let go as part of a government bailout agreement. To cut to the chase, he was fired by President Barack Obama.  Wow.


Our government is now in charge of GM, and Chrysler.


I heard the other day on some news show that we elected Barack Obama because we didn’t believe him. In spite of evidence from his history and his lifelong dialogue with the radical left, we thought he would be a centrist leader.


Not so.


Even the Europeans seem to think his ideas about government spending getting us out of this recession are wrong. I know I feel uncomfortable when the Chinese express concern about our credit worthiness. I never thought I’d see the day we were dependent on China and India for money.


The radical right has asked for this, really, and helped us to get it. They effectively shrunk the Republican Party with extreme ideology, forgetting that the essential attitude of conservatism in regard to government does not require agreement on everything.


We don’t all have to be fundamentalist Christians. Conservatives, defined here as those who believe in limitation of government and in maximizing of personal freedom, come in black, white, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Mormon and those not very religious.


The radical right forgot to include all of us.


Second, the “right” forgot to be “right.” Many of them contributed to the collapse of our economy with fraud and greed, self interest at the expense of the innocent.


Enlightened self interest is a good thing. It involves, building a business, for example, to make money for yourself and your family. It is a building block of a successful capitalist society. It does not involve defrauding others for quick gain for oneself. It does involve responsibility for the result of one’s actions.


If I invest money in a business which fails, I lose my money. That is capitalism in its most pure form.


Socialism, at its most pure, means contributing according to one’s ability, receiving according to need. We’ve seen how that works.


Bailouts and pure capitalism are incompatible. Freedom only works if individuals suffer the consequences of their actions.


It thus makes sense for the government to take control of corporations being bailed out. There’s even a benefit to taxpayers in that our forced investment is, hopefully, being protected instead of frittered away on bonuses or contributions to banking partners in Europe.


We have three choices.


One, pure capitalism. I work for myself. If I fail, I fail. Any charity or community support I contribute is up to me.  Government provides security, police, infrastructure.


Two, our government, the purchasers of the $600 toilet seat, control everything from major businesses to health care. Justification for this is the assertion that “people are no damn good.” Unfortunately, there’s a lot of truth to this. People often forget the responsibility that must go with freedom in order to create a fair and just civilization.


Three, our legislative bodies could take a new look at what we’ve been doing, and re-think legislating appropriately to maintain freedom while providing protection and safety for our citizens.


This does not mean running around in little circles, making lots of new laws; like the silly and self-destructive retroactive 90% tax on bonuses, or even that relatively new legislation separating murder into hate crimes and non-hate crimes. Both are examples of ridiculous overreaction to societal ills.


Transparency would be essential. Clearly written, brief laws, easy to look up, and not riddled with hundreds of earmarks. It is sickening to hear of elected officials asserting that the pot needs to be sweetened for even a worthwhile bill to pass.


The government must stop attempting to manipulate society by such efforts as the loosening of mortgage requirements to allow more low-income people to buy houses. It artificially increased demand and, thus, prices for houses, leading to consumer confidence that they would always be able to repay loans by selling for more than their purchase price.


Our laws should provide safety, not social change. Social change responds to many forces. We do not need to create it with laws.


We’ve just seen the result of ideological excess from the right. Fasten your seatbelt for a ride with the radical left. If you see any common sense hiding behind a bush while you’re speeding along, reach out and grab it. It’s rare. Maybe it’ll be worth something some day.


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