The business of America is not business

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by Ronald P. Salzberger, September 17, 2008 • A decent life requires that our social institutions be run on the basis of care for others, not just self- and corporate-interest.

According to Robert Reich (American Public Radio, Wednesday, 17 September)

We haven’t seen this much government intervention in the economy since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. But this time it’s Wall Street rather than the poor who’s getting all the help.

Free markets, by definition, aren’t supposed to need government support. Companies whose shares plummet are supposed to be ripe targets for takeover without government subsidies and guarantees. Firms that need capital are supposed to be able to raise it without emergency loans from the government.

While Reich goes on to talk mainly about financial institutions and Wall Street being unable to right themselves because they no longer command our “trust,” the real lesson here is that markets don’t right themselves. They do what we want them to only insofar as we are prepared to keep an eye on them and discipline them when need be. If we don’t, they can’t even save themselves.

As the 2008 election approaches, TCDP is receiving many thoughtful opinion columns about candidates and issues. The Soapbox blog offers a space for local opinion on (mostly) national and world issues, including elections.

It is time, therefore, to have done with, once and for all, that nasty and inherently sociopathic demand that we make our social institutions “more business-like.” How many crises and crashes and failures are we going to observe before we finally acknowledge that market operations are not the perpetual motion machines of social provision. A decent life requires that our social institutions be run on the basis of care for others, not just self- and corporate-interest.

So, enough already of making our schools more business like; making government more business-like, turning prisons, armies, police, fire departments into businesses, etc.