Putting the Brakes On Our Runaway Economy
Even though we are at the start of a new millennium, which should raise our hopes of great expectations for humanity, the current state of the world resembles the past millennium, or more like the approach to Armageddon. Fires of war are being stoked up. Masses of people are displaced, endangered, or dying from neglect or hostile causes, and from present and anticipated ravages of an overtaxed environment. The world economy is very shaky. It has been compared to a runaway train heading for a collision. The optimistic numbers on the U.S.stock exchanges used as an index of prosperity do not reflect economic and social reality. They say nothing of the quality of life, which is the index of happiness.
In our country we see a crisis in government seldom experienced before. The founding principles of our government, based upon wisdom gleaned from centuries of world discord and best pronounced in the Preamble of our Constitution, have distinguished us from other nations; but these principles today are given only token regard, or are distorted beyond recognition.
There is serious doubt whether the new administration even knows the principles of government. If they studied at all, perhaps they only got as far as Machiavelli, who wrote that it was better for a Prince to rule effectively by fear and, at times, to act immorally and with brute force. Or, it seems, they may have read Ayn Rand, who argues for the superiority of the elite of individuals over the "tyranny" of promoting the common good.
To help clarify the situation for myself and, hopefully, others who may read this, I find it useful to go back to basic concepts of government. The simplest metaphor may be the governor device of a machine which ensures uniform motion and limits its speed to prevent runaway self-destruction. The flywheel of a car's engine is one example out of an infinity of examples. To carry the metaphor from physics and nature further, we see examples of feedback loops (negative feedback) of self-controlling forces all about us. An elementary law of physics states that for every force there is an equal and opposite reaction. If there were no centripetal force of gravity opposing the centrifugal force caused by the spinning of the earth, everything on it would fly off into space, and the earth itself would break up, I presume.
Good government should serve similar purposes.. The engine of society should run forward smoothly and be well-regulated to avoid catastrophes. In our economy, profits - the difference between all costs and the selling price - always accumulate to the owners of our "capital": our productive land, our factories, any profit-based enterprise. The result is an upward accumulation of profit/wealth, enhanced by the interest/earnings of reinvestment. That could all be good and just in an exemplary society following the best traditions of enlightened humanism founded on ethics born in altruistic religions, where everyone would freely share their wealth - as might happen in a commune society.
But we don't have that. People in general don't share their wealth. The profits tend to accumulate at an accelerating rate to the 1%., the 0.01%, ".the .0001%. When things get out of control, the brakes must be applied. The only recourse we have under our present economic system is taxes: taxes to run the government and redistribute the wealth to equalize society within at least modest boundaries of contentment. The equivalent alternative is to limit wealth accumulation and distribute excess profits both to workers as fair wages and to the general public as a "god-given" or public share of ownership of the resources of the Earth, which the owners of capital now claim for themselves.
In the present we are facing economic problems beyond the classic face-off between capitalists and socialists. Instead of putting on the brakes - which is the classic role of a conservative mentality, the present administration is going in the opposite direction - positive feedback in the form of widespread deregulation - which will accelerate the speed of collision of the economy and the devastation of the environment. This is a subterfuge as dangerous to the true spirit and welfare of America as any foreign conspiracy.
For further discussion along these lines, I refer you to an earlier article posted on this website The Case For "Human Economics"