Ask Auntie Pinko
October 28, 2004
By Auntie Pinko
I am voting for Kerry because I think he will do a lot for
America's foreign policy, and offers a better hope for some way
out of the mess in Iraq. Even though he hasn't been too specific
about how he wants to solve it, he obviously understands the problem
better than Bush does, because Bush doesn't even see it as a problem,
and he's the guy who got us into the mess.
So I feel good about voting for Kerry on that score, even though
I'm a more "conservative" independent usually. Where I have doubts
is on Kerry's approach to the economy. Will he just sink us into
another protectionist, big-government, regulation-happy mess that
will prolong the depression and keep us in debt to foreigners who
will own most of America soon? Nothing that he's said so far gives
me any confidence that he'll be any good for businesses, and businesses
are the backbone of the economy.
What makes you think he'll do a good job on the economy (if
New York, NY
Auntie Pinko certainly doesn't want to say anything that will
discourage you from voting for Mr. Kerry! But I would be less than
honest if I didn't make it clear that my view of "the economy" is
different from yours, before I state categorically that I believe
Mr. Kerry is the strongest candidate on the economy.
What is "the economy," and what is its purpose, and who does it
exist to serve? In my view, "the economy" is a dynamic system with
- The first element is human - ideas, drive, sweat, etc.
- The second element is resources - money, credit, raw materials,
- The third element is government - strategic decision-making
with an eye on the big picture.
- And the fourth element is context - weather, geography, politics,
culture, and so on.
Each element is subject to control and manipulation to a greater
or lesser degree. And everyone who has the power to do so wishes
to manipulate these elements in order to serve the interests in
which they believe. However, because the system is so dynamic and
the interplay between all of those elements is so unpredictable,
these attempts don't always have the intended effects - particularly
when there are other interests promoting other outcomes.
One way we can help minimize negative unintended outcomes and
make the most strategic decisions in relation to the economy is
if we can form a consensus on the purpose of the whole messy, ever-changing,
unbelievably complicated system. I think many of the negative economic
trends we have seen lately are a result of the loss of that consensus,
and even forgetting that the consensus itself is necessary.
So what is the purpose of the system? It is what we define it
to be. Lately we seem to have a number of definitions floating about,
and unfortunately most of them seem to be rather narrowly focused
on the interests of a relatively small part of the population. I
would hope that whomever is President can make it part of his leadership
goals to promote a unifying consensus about the purpose of the economy.
And, of course, I'd like it to agree with my belief, which is this:
The purpose of the nation's economy is to enable any individual
willing to work hard for forty hours a week to support a family
of four in modest comfort.
An economy that doesn't fulfill that purpose is dysfunctional,
and the harder it is for the hypothetical individual working those
forty hours to meet a family's basic needs for safe and adequate
shelter, food, clothing, and health care, the greater the degree
of dysfunctionality. All of our infrastructure-housing stock, transportation,
public safety, education, and so on-should be managed with that
consideration in mind.
The regulations that government applies to people and resources
should be made with that goal in mind. And because our nation has
a fundamental value of individual freedom, that goal cannot be achieved
by authoritarian means, or by establishing some dreary minimum mass-production
system reminiscent of the Soviet "planned economy."
If we can all agree on that goal and that constraint, then perhaps
we can embrace a more common and objective view of government's
role in strategic decision-making, and a clearer set of standards
for government performance. That would be the first step toward
"fixing" our highly dysfunctional economy.
One reason I am voting for Mr. Kerry is because I think his long
experience in the Senate, his demonstrated abilities as a long-term,
strategic, centrist thinker, and his understanding of just what
Presidential leadership should be, will make him better suited to
lead America in the direction of a consensus on the economy, based
on the well-being of all our citizens (even if he doesn't precisely
agree with my vision.)
That's probably not a very encouraging answer if your only criteria
for a President's performance on the economy is "how is business
doing?" But I think that's looking at it from the wrong way around.
Clearly, business doing well does not reliably translate into American
families doing well. I think it's time to change the criteria to
"how are families doing?" And if that is the question, then John
Kerry seems the best answer. Thanks for asking Auntie Pinko, Sheldon!
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