The Invisible Hand Needs a Medina Mugger's Manicure
The conventional wisdom put forth by the instrumentalities and instruments of the current US/UK financial crisis is this, and it's tiring: There is a huge crisis going on, and the middle and lower class taxpayers should be on the hook for cleaning it up -- rather than allowing that responsibility to fall to the perpetrators -- simply because it's important. The market deserves it.1
Well, you'd have to be historically illiterate, stupid, or a blind ideological glibertarian at this point not to realise that laissez-faire capitalism is a failed ideology. We've been here before. Laissez-faire capitalism is what produced such a terrifying cycle of vast booms and busts between the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression, and a class of gilded plutocrats living on the sweat of a vast mass of slum-dwelling labourers. There was a reason the New Deal included historically-unprecedented levels of regulation (and why the gilded plutocrats fought it so hard, and have been working ever since to undo it); and why the Great Society which followed it (with its historically-unprecedented sky-high tax rates on the wealthy) created a flourishing, strong, stable society, and why eroding those protections and foundations ever since has steadily eaten away at the foundations of a peaceful, orderly civil society -- a good publicly-funded education system, public investment in research and development and infrastructure, and a functioning social safety net. (Canada's amazing entrepreneurial culture at the microbusiness level is ample evidence of the incentive toward business risk-taking that minimising personal risk to the lower and middle classes encourages, likewise the counterexample would be the millions of Americans stuck at jobs they hate for the health insurance.)
The current cohort of gilded plutocrats, plump as gorged mosquitoes on what they've been sucking out of the deregulated US economy for the past several years, are taking this pretty hard. Despite playing for tears in the right-leaning and financial press, as evidenced brilliantly by the excerpt at Hullabaloo about the poor dear who was facing the most difficult crisis of his entire life -- giving up his private jet, they're not doing a very good job at winning sympathy from left-leaning hardasses like me. My heart, which, like the rest of me, has never earned more than thirty grand a year in my entire adult life, bleeds...
...from the pain of having to listen to these entitled shitstains whine about how hard-done-by they are.
And that's why nobody should be asking for a fucking bailout of seven hundred thousand million dollars, for chrissakes.
Call me a Communist if you want (I'm not), but I don't think people really need to own private jets in the first place. Once you've accumulated an obscene enough amount of money that you can afford a private jet (as opposed to the kind of private plane that you're, you know, flying yourself because it's a hobby), you're basically doing nothing but masturbating your greed anyway, and that kind of thing needs to fucking stop. Greed wankers are eating the culture of not just the United States, but the entire world alive in their rapacious quest to own more and more of the world's wealth (and drive people like us to produce more and more wealth so they can harvest it from us).
Some of us aren't exactly too happy about explicitly being the endlessly sacrificing impoverished parent-figures of the ruling class, to the point where the ruling class is saying at an economic level, that a good many of us deserve to be metaphorically or literally taken to the poorhouse so that we can enable them to maintain (most of) their grossly inflated standard of living. I'm a small business owner, for chrissakes, and if I'd been so incompetent as to not only lose my business but also to have destabilised the world's financial markets in losing that business, I think I could pretty much expect to be eating lentils and rice in my one-room dive for the next, oh, several decades, don't you think, and not just snivelling about how poor me, I might have to sell my third vacation home and two of my twelve cars...
Fuck them and their obscene case of the poor-mouth. No seven hundred thousand million dollar quicker-picker-upper. If they want the world's economy -- as opposed to simply themselves -- to maintain financial integrity, they can start by doing what that that AIG CEO did, and refusing their severances. They got the world into this mess, first by agitating for the deregulation that would allow economic jiggery-pokery on a transnational scale, and then by running around like small children on a Halloween candy binge, virtually shrieking "Whee, everything's deregulated, let's just make shit up!"; they can at least help pay for the broken glass and plaster.
Keep in mind, this economic crisis is mostly not about subprime mortgages; the bulk of the bailout would be going to reward fraudsters and people who thought that an unregulated derivative market (which, worldwide may be in the hundreds of trillions of dollars or more) was not only a good idea, but ideologically the right thing to do.
Also, last I'd heard, part of the $700B swindle was going to go to pay $2.5B in bonuses to Lehman Brothers employees. They helped destabilise the world economy and they think they deserve two and a half billion dollars in bonuses?! For fucking what?! (Is anyone else reminded of kids insisting that they do so deserve their allowances despite being holy terrors all week and not doing any of their chores?)
Before Mommy and Daddy Taxpayer shells out dime one (and does anybody seriously believe the $700B would be the end of it?), the holy terrors of Wall Street (and Bay Street, and the Square Mile) can give back their bonuses, their fucking golden parachutes, their years' worth of ill-gotten gains, and maybe even their salaries to not more than twice what their highest-paid non-upper-management workers make. If they did all that, maybe nobody in the middle and lower classes would even be on the hook for a bailout, because they'd no doubt have more than enough cash to go around.
Also maybe if their actions actually had real consequenses, they'd be a damn sight more careful in the future.
I'm personally awfully weary of the attitude that just because something is ostensibly "a crisis," that somehow absolves the people who were instrumental in creating the crisis (or allowing it to happen) from any responsibility to fix it, or from experiencing any the real-world consequenses of their actions. That kind of attitude is disturbingly Christian to me -- cry, "Oh, I'm sorry, I repent!" loudly enough, and someone will either pat you on the head and tell you you're forgiven, so it doesn't matter anymore, or sell you an indulgence. Me, I'm a philosophical Jew when it comes to that sort of thing -- if you fuck it up, you're responsible for it, and you not only had better ask forgiveness to the party or parties you've wronged, but you'd also better get your tuchis in gear and at least attempt to fix it.2
I don't see much of an attempt to fix it forthcoming from the perpetrators, just a plea to Mama or Mammon to make it awwww bettoww...
1 I'm with Bernie Sanders here: Any company that is "too big to fail" is perforce too big to exist.
2 For those of you who in the upper-class crowd who are actually Jewish, Rosh Hashana is in six days. You've got some heavy-duty atoning and repaying of debts to do before the end of the year; I'd hop to it if I were you.
Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/AFP/Getty Images: A protestor visually heckling US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (left), and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke (right).