Monday, December 15, 2008

Fixing the American Economy

In the beginning, all men were created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Over the years, this equality has been perfected in difficult lurches through the duress of war and protest, but that first proposition of equality is yet still a radical notion. Even today, some 200 years later, those who believe themselves more equal than the rest of us still blithely deny our ownership of this most hard fought freedom. In contrast, our founding fathers, who were in general a group of men with significant wealth and power, chose not to abuse their position to abscond, but to abdicate these privileges and risk their very lives to give birth to freedom and justice. It was to them self-evident, that in the eyes of God and the eyes of the law all men must be equal.

In these days of economic fear, we have become dispossessed of this birthright. Our prosperity is no longer so determined by strength of will or content of character, but by the size and effectiveness of our public relations. Once proud business leaders wrap themselves in the flag and fall prostrate to grovel at the feet of our politicians. How can we not reward such talented beggary, a skill once selfishly monopolized by drunks and addicts, now so eloquently apprehended by the wealthy and powerful? The rest of us, the forgotten ones, are now obliged to ride at the back of the bus because we cannot spin sob stories quite so earnestly.

What of my brother, who struggles to make ends meet? What of my sister, who pinches pennies to pay for college? What of my parents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins? What of my friends and neighbors? What of their jobs and their life savings? Currently, over 500,000 Americans file for unemployment weekly. Why did we not protect their jobs? The tales of terror from the auto industry claim that three million people will lose their jobs if they are allowed to collapse, yet every 6 weeks this number of job losses is wrought upon the rest of us. Does my family deserve less than others do, or should we quietly accept our new second-class standing?

Even more egregious than an auto bailout, is the so-called stimulus program designed by the incoming administration. Dazzled by economic alchemists, these grand planners suggest that we can spin debt into gold, and beseech us to ignore our better judgment. We are to lay our trust in a gaggle of political quacks to invest properly the estimated $1 Trillion borrowed, half the size of the entire Italian economy. Those of us who question this new leviathan are pat on the head and told to run along.

We cynics have coped with this new injustice by waffling between despair and detachment, resigned to complain from the sidelines and acquiesce to the high priests of the mystic calculus of economics. Yet these passive positions betray the very foundation of freedom and equality. It is individual action and the use of reason that gave birth to civilization and anointed humanity with the power to sustain our lives and procure for ourselves the destinies we each conceive.

What of my brother, should they help him? The very question is an insult to the strength he possesses. Implied in this is an assumption that they are more able to bear his burdens, and a confusion that struggle is needless pain. Up high in the ivory tower, he may appear to be a wobbly-kneed foal, mired in muck with his excessive burdens in tow. If they lowered themselves perhaps, they could better assess this situation. From such an altitude, one cannot see the sinews seethe beneath his chest, nor hot veins running jagged down his legs. One cannot hear his teeth grind the bit and whip taut the reins as his ferocious determination tears his cargo from the muddy clutches of the earth.

What kind of fearsome man is this? The common one. The standard model assumed by our founding fathers to populate every corner of the world. Where they see lambs in want of a shepherd, I see lions in want of wildebeests.

Bailouts and stimulus are a poison, convincing individuals not to act, but to wait for assistance. Prescriptions for our current ailments should affirm that all are individually capable of sustaining our recovery. No man’s job is more important than another’s. No man’s wealth is more important than another’s. The only stimulus we need is to free the faculties of individuals to rebuild our economic order one brick at a time. We are not in need of one great hero, but 300 million of them.

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