Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yeah, let’s deregulate everything. How about starting with traffic regulations? Hungry for a flesh-and-steel sandwich?

What caused the subprime market meltdown?

“Greed,” says John McCain.

“Greed,” echoes Sarah Palin.

Yeah, they say, and we gotta get those greedy, conniving, evil, predatory Wall Street lenders and show 'em what for.

Give me a break!

John McCain—deregulate, baby, deregulate—seems never to have met an economic problem that deregulation (and perhaps a few more tax cuts for rich corporations and individuals) couldn’t fix. After all, “market forces” balance everything out after a while. Right?

Small problem: “Market Forces” are a hanging judge. And the judge is currently hanging the entire economy of the United States from a very tall tree.

Of course the Wall Street guys were greedy. Greed is as American as apple pie. But blaming greedy bankers and predator lenders is like blaming a bullet for shooting you. Greed and predation is what they do. Regulating greed to keep it under control and thwart predatory behavior is what governments are supposed to do.

It’s deregulation that
shot the economy dead

It’s the function of government to protect us from the market manipulations that are a byproduct of rampant greed. Just as it used to protect us from greedy usurers. People used to go to prison for charging the kind of interest rates the banks are getting on credit caards now.

Marketplace regulation is no more onerous than government traffic regulations that help to shield us from highway traffic accidents. In fact, imagine that highway traffic accidents were the major campaign issue now.

People are still getting killed with a 65 MPH speed limit? Tell yuh what. Let’s deregulate speed and eliminate all speed limits. Get rid of those speed limit signs. Get rid of those rumble speed bumps. Get rid of that radar.

Even more people are getting killed with no speed limits? Easy fix. Just get rid of the highway patrol.

Still more people getting killed? Well, let’s take the dividers out between the eastbound and westbound lanes so that cars can go in any lane, any direction they want. And just to encourage “innovative” driving, we’ll give a tax break to anybody who takes a spin on the Freeforall Highway.

The “gotcha” doofus
will strike again

I should interrupt this rant to mention that some doofus with his finger on the “gotcha” button shoots me either an e-mail or a post every time I discuss this subject, reminding me that Bill Clinton signed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act, one of the more important regulations that used to protect us.

Well, yes Clinton did—when it was attached to other legislation that he really needed and it all got shoved down his throat by mischief-making Republicans. And if Republicans are so offended now by its repeal, why didn’t they reinstate it during the six years they controlled both houses of Congress and the White House? And why didn't John McCain complaint about it once in those eight years?

There's no point in
bailing out the boat if you
don't fix the leak

Bailing out the banks will do us no good at all if once the bankers are bailed out (or even before that) they can jump into their 500 horsepower Greedsters and go roaring down the highway again.

But of course, I never met a Republican—John McCain and Sarah Whatzername most certainly included— who could think ten seconds ahead.

Oh, for those of you who are interested in such things, the Direct Marketing Association— those wonderful folks who brought you spam and junk mail—are holding their convention this week.

And just take a wild guess what they’re complaining about.


Dave T said...

You may want to check this out... interesting discussion.. might want to link up, start a back and forth


Buce said...

See Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2008 p 26 ff, for an account of the career of Hans Monderman, the guy who makes cities safer by taking down arrows, painted lines and traffic lights.

Geff said...

There's nothing wrong with deregulating some actions as long as you're willing to take it to the next level of fairness. For instance, any individual who steals my retirement account should not have to go to prison as long as my right to find that guy on my own and throttle him to death is likewise unregulated.