Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An important distinction

The United States does not have a capitalist government; it has a capitalist economy. The democratic-republic government is about running the country; the economy is about moving goods and services and making a profit.

Both have much to learn from each other. The government can learn lessons about being lean and mean from successful businesses. Businesses - and consumers - benefit from sensible public regulation that ensures everything is safe and on the level.

At the same time, however, government should not be a private, for-profit entity, and neither should the business sector run the country. Not everything that society needs can or should be a profit spigot, such as schools or social-service agencies. People should not be allowed to suffer out of some free-market, "survival of the fittest" logic. The United States is a not a giant game of Monopoly, and whoever has the most cards wins. Everyone deserves at least a basic footing of education, housing and resources to help them succeed.

Capitalism has its purpose, one that serves Americans well for the most part. But it is not an affront to the system to suggest that government not have profit as its prime (and/or sole) motivator for its actions.

The difference between our government and our economy is one I think a lot of people have completely forgotten. Here's your reminder.

29 comments:

TJenkins said...

"Everyone deserves at least a basic footing of education, housing and resources to help them succeed."

I must have missed that line in the Constitution, maybe you could point it out? The government should pay for our housing? Really?

"Resources" is a broad term, enlighten me as to what it encapsulates.

Ian McGibboney said...

It's basic human decency. It's also smart to have people employed and living somewhere, because crime is largely a function of poverty and hopelessness.

Resources means any program or education that helps people achieve those means. That's a smart use of money, I think.

Tjenkins said...

But that's not the job of government as laid out by the Constitution. Maybe you should go back to college and take a civics course.

Ian McGibboney said...

I'd say it falls under the definition of this country as outlined in the Preamble. "Promote the general welfare" in particular.

Hathor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hathor said...

I wonder if employers ever would reinstate the 7 day, 70 hour work week, would saying I'm for the free market give you a pass to a 5 day, 40 hour week.

twodiddle said...

http://twodiddle.blogspot.com/2009/05/who-am-i.html

Tjenkins said...

"I'd say it falls under the definition of this country as outlined in the Preamble. "Promote the general welfare" in particular."

Once again, you have no clue what you're talking about.

According to James Madison, the clause authorized Congress to spend money, but only to carry out the powers and duties specifically enumerated in the subsequent clauses of Article I, Section 8, and elsewhere in the Constitution, not to meet the seemingly infinite needs of the general welfare.The Supreme Court upheld the belief that the so-called "General welfare" clause does not give the government free reign. The government is constrained, by settled law, to follow the Madison interpretation of that clause.

Ian McGibboney said...

Care to cite that? Or explain to me how "promoting the general welfare" somehow means doing nothing for the people?

TJenkins said...

The government does plenty to promote the general welfare of the people. They provide adequate infrastructure, regulate industries and provide for the defense of it's citizens. That's it's job, it's job isn't to dole out the money for the liberal cause of the moment. The crap you think the government should tax us and provide to us for "free" is better provided by the private sector.

As for a source; United States v. Butler

Ian McGibboney said...

So why doesn't the private sector, in all its perfect benevolence, do it?

I hear a lot about the majesty of the private sector, but rarely see it in action.

Tjenkins said...

So, you've never been to a doctor?

Ian McGibboney said...

Yes, I've had the pleasure of dealing with private medical insurance. I think they make up bills just for fun.

Tjenkins said...

True, but you think the government, despite evidence that they are unable to manage..well everything, would somehow do better?

Ian McGibboney said...

I think we should at least consider a reasonable plan. If the governments got one, go for it.

Tjenkins said...

Um yeah, when's the last time the government had a "reasonable plan" for anything? UHC would cost TRILLIONS and the logistics of it would be a nightmare...the government can't even run the auto companies properly, and that's only a piddly couple billion.

What has the government ever done well to deserve such blind faith from you?

Ian McGibboney said...

I'll turn that question around on you: what has the government done to you that causes you to so reflexively despise and condemn anything it does or has ever done? I suppose, by your logic, that you were also opposed to the war on Iraq. After all, it's cost trillions and involves the biggest government program of them all: the military. Even worse, we've given Iraqis and Guantanamo Bay detainees free health care.

Universal health care is just one possibility. There is more than one solution out there. I'm willing to entertain a solution that doesn't hold health care entirely hostage to profit-centric corporations.

Tjenkins said...

Sure, I'll answer your question when you answer mine.

Michael said...

Yeah, 'cuz the insurance companies aren't making trillions of dollars a year on the crappy care they're allegedly providing to those of us fortunate enough to have it at all. Why would we want to continue handing our money over to the same people who've been screwing us for decades? At least the Democrats are offering a different plan. As usual, all the Republicans have is more mindless opposition. If the Democrats were introducing the Second Amendment in Congress today, I guarantee you no Republican would vote for it, just because it came from the Democrats.

NOLA Progressive said...

I think an excellent example of how the government can run and administer service well is the postal system. It is MASSIVE in its scope and responsibility with miniscule rates or error by percentage. It is cheap in comparison to its private sector competitors, and provides a vital service.

Government can be run effectively, and play a significant positive role in citizen's lives. It's pretty simple really. When government is directed to do things incompetently it does them so. When it is overseen and directed to do things effectively it does so. Ironically no different than the private sector in this regard.

TJenkins said...

"Why would we want to continue handing our money over to the same people who've been screwing us for decades?"

lol, that's an equally valid reason AGAINST government run health care!

"I think an excellent example of how the government can run and administer service well is the postal system."

Ha ha, you mean the same postal service that hemorrhages money and has to raise their rates every 6 months, that postal service?

NOLA Progressive said...

No I mean the postal system that still provides parcel service for well under a dollar, and has every bit the success rate that it's private competitors do per capita while dealing with enormously higher volume.

As far as the rate raises, keeping up with inflationary pressures is a must. A staunch and pure capitalist such as yourself surely realizes this. In fact, there rate increases are far less than many I've witnessed in the private sector.

This leans to Ian's previous point about the government and private sector learning from one another. Perhaps with a bit of insight the problems that the postal service has encountered recently could be alleviated without raising rates, and perhaps the postal service could serve as a model for managing intense work loads effectively for other businesses.

The point being that it doesn't have to be "pure" anything. A system that works would be more than sufficient regardless of what ethos is employed.

Ian McGibboney said...

Also, the Postal Service is different than, say, health care in the sense that I don't have to buy into a certain network that only lets me deliver mail to a list of select people in Guam, and that the price of a stamp doesn't rise $7 a year.

Michael said...

lol, that's an equally valid reason AGAINST government run health care!Only if you're of the (limited) mindset that the government automatically screws people it deals with. Out here in the real world, however, most of us rather like the government and the things it provides for us.

Besides, if we were to move to a single-payer system, businesses would save trillions of dollars that they now pour into providing benefits for their employees--when they're able to provide them. That's been a huge factor in a globalized market in driving businesses away from the U.S. Why would you want to locate here when you have to shell out billions of dollars a year to provide healthcare benefits that you could get for far less in taxes if you were to locate in Europe or somewhere else? (Especially when you add those costs to those associated with having to cope with our wretched infrastructure and our subpar educational system, both of which would likely benefit from an economy where the healthcare burden was shifted to the federal government.)

And think of the volume discounts and economies of scale we'd benefit from. As a capitalist, TJ, you should be drooling at the very idea.

Robert Taylor said...

Ian, once again when you talk government and economics you show damned ignorance.

I'll give you a wikipedia link, maybe that will help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage

Ian McGibboney said...

Robert, it would help if you had a point to go with that. You're very fond of throwing massive amounts of reading at me, but I'd like to know what you're trying to tell me.

Robert Taylor said...

What I was trying to suggest Ian, is that you may want to verse yourself in the true definition of Capitalism, which involves PRIVATE property, and no public sector. Capitalism and the existence of a government which can and does manipulate business cycles are INCOMPATIBLE.

Comparative advantage merely discredits your ad hominem attacks on the "selfishness" of the free market.

NOLA Progressive said...

I haven't looked at this thread in a couple of days, so forgive me if I'm off the mark, but didn't the point evolve into the idea that unadulterated Capitalism was frighteningly awful? Further, wasn't the point adapting strong and effective facets of Capitalism, Socialism, etc... in order to produce the most effective system of government is the way to go?

It doesn't seem to be truly ad hominem to point out a multi-faceted approach here. Certainly there are many points to attack on the current system, but at least to me, it is more about a blanket realization that system is broken. Really the only debate is what is the best fix.

Ian McGibboney said...

If greed and selfishness isn't the point of capitalism, then why is the public sector such a threat? Why is it wrong to ensure that children don't work, that people get paid fair wages and are safe on the job?

If anything, the economy has suffered in large part from 30 years of deregulation. Government regulations on credit and banking are among the economic checks designed to prevent another Great Depression, but those have been rolled back in recent years. Big surprise, then, that we're in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. And you want want even less oversight? Sorry, but this is a bad time to make that argument.

I fail to see, under your ideal way of doing things, what will keep the young man on the island from killing the old man once he's decided that the old man no longer gives him enough of what he wants. It all seems so apocalyptic. No thanks.