Sunday, October 10, 2010

Calling spades spades

To anyone who knows me it would not come as a surprise that I believe in the precepts of free-market capitalism (FMC).

T hat being said, it is also vital to recognize that I do not condone any and all actions that are taken or promoted under the banner of FMC. I also feel it is important to take into account the fact that there has never—ever—been a country which has been a 100% pure FMC economy.

To my recollection the USA, even at it’s very inception, was a mixture and it has moved more and more away from FMC every year even though it is popularly held up to be the exemplary model of FMC.  Perhaps, it is still the most free of all the countries today—although there may be much reason to doubt that—it is still far from a pure FMC and should, in reality, be called something else.

With this background I wish to express some doubts that I’ve had in recent times which grow out of the increasing concerns—both in number and loudness—that I’ve been hearing about the movement of the US towards a socialistic or communistic economy.

The crux of my concern is the connection which is always shown between the horrible actions of major communistic movements in the past in terms of genocide and suffering.

The questions which I am asking is what is there in socialism or communism that is inherently violent, or that makes a nation which adopts these systems to start killing off people on a large scale.

Yes, we can look at a large sampling of nations and name leaders like Mao Zedong, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, etc and show that under them millions of people perished.  I’m not arguing about these facts … but the thing that I am asking is whether it is the system that is at fault, or the person or people who were flawed.

From the evidence I’ve seen I have little doubt that the most efficient way for an economy to operate is the FMC model, but that, in itself, doesn’t make the other systems inherently evil, just as travelling in an ox cart is slower than a bicycle, comparing the two needs to be done on the basis of what you wish to achieve and not on the personalities of the famous people who have used ox carts or bicycles.

What this point of view raises is another issue which is possibly more vital to our future than the exact mixture of economic systems which we use:  the issue is that some individuals are possibly much more inclined to abuse power than others.

With this in mind, then we need to concern ourselves with two points:  1) Identifying who are most likely to abuse power and 2) Limiting the power which they can have so as to limit the damage which they can do.

Coming back to haunt you

I think that one of the greatest challenges we face in life is being honest with ourselves. 

We may be conscious of using some deception or attempts to influence the thoughts of other, but somehow we even go to great lengths to avoid the fact that we may be doing

the same to ourselves.

When my children were small, I always attempted to teach them what I believed would be helpful to them in their lives, although I may not have always realized that there was some variance between what I said and what I did.  You may remember the old saw: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

One of the things I frequently would say to my girls whenever they complained that some rule or outcome or event “wasn’t fair”, was “Who ever told you that life was fair?”, or as an alternative I’d say “Fare is what you pay to the bus driver.”

Recently I’ve moved from being an active worker into the realm of the retired, and as such, have felt that my life should be much more relaxed and free from obligations imposed by the needs and desires of others.

My wife, however, decided to take up employment where she was on call, and could be called at a pre-dawn hour to work.  On a couple of occasions I was awakened and asked to drive her to her place of employment, arising several hours before I would have otherwise.

On one of these times I found myself thinking: “This isn’t fair! Now that I’m retired, why should I have to ‘work’ too, just so my wife could work”?

Then, as I was searching for the answer to that question, I recalled what I had attempted to instil into my children … now I have to decide:  Do I live by my own teachings, or do I decide that I’d been wrong all that time?

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