Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Slightly more coherent cogitation than last night

I should be studying for my statistics midterm, but I will take a respite to try and make up for my admitedly shoddy post that Sherman enjoyed shooting bazooka size holes in this morning.

Most of the world and most Americans still admire the United States because it is a proven environment for creating wealth and prosperity. I would argue - as many have before me - that this is because of strong property rights, rule of law, generally free markets, and somewhat of a libertine air of rugged independence amongst its citizens.

Tonight, I would like to address the last two points.

"The market that failed was not exactly free" (subtitle of the editorial in today's Post). Increasingly, the U.S. government has intervened in what can best be described as a mixed economy. But we do live in a fundamentally capitalist society or a "market society" - even this liberal Lindblom I read in grad school admits it.

Markets beat government coordination both logistically and philosophically. No planner, politician, or bureaucrat can be all places at once, the market can. Markets are also much more vast in scope than any government could hope to be. They are self-adjusting and customizeable down to individual transactions and adapt instantaneously. Compare this with the unilateral, one-size-fits-all approach of government coordination which also takes ample time to adjust. Which approach honors individuality and most efficiently rewards hard work and innovation? We live in a market society because Americans have always held these values.

We are a country of individualists. We value innovation, hard work, and opportunity. Opportunity has been abused as of late. Opportunity in the traditional American sense does not convey a sense of entitlement or governmental obligation. Opportunity meant/means FREEDOM. But as our country has gotten wealthier, we have called for more and more to be given to us instead of earned. We've lost faith in our ability to make our own way in the world yet most would defiantly defend their right to do so (even with their hand outstretched for government money).

Americans are also optimists. My Bubblicious Optimism post was trying to address this. We are more positive about the private sector and the future than other developed countries and this shows in our acceptance of risk. And it turns out that tolerance for risk pays! Maybe it's hard to see now, but in the long-haul risk has paid America dividends. While some in society may gain more directly from growth than others, compare the lot of the bottom 10% of Americans others. Or maybe compare the basket of goods the bottom 10% can afford in the U.S. versus elsewhere. But that bottom 10% issue is a whole 'nother blogpost. American optimism puts stock in the individual over the government and in the long run over the short run.

Optimism is fundamental to the American psyche and I'd have it no other way.

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