August 22, 2012 by David K. Sutton
A Liberal Exhortation on Government, Capitalism, Free Markets and Privatization
From the top, let’s clear something up. You don’t fix government by tearing it down. Conservatives have spent an entire generation, since President Reagan’s inauguration, spewing nonsense about the evils of government. Let me tell you something, human beings in any walk of life can do good or do evil, it doesn’t take government to bring the bad out. There’s plenty of bad behavior going on in the private sector. As a liberal, I can cite many problems with government (war, crony capitalism, surveillance state, erosion of civil liberties), but I still believe in what the founders believed: We the People. The only way we are going to make government work is not by tearing it down, but by accepting that government is an extension of the community. If you base your approach to government on the belief that it is “the problem,” you are likely to get from government exactly what you put into it. In other words, if you have a problem with government, the problem starts with you.
So replace Reagan’s:
Government is not the solution to our problem; Government is the problem.
Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country.
The United States of America was not founded on capitalism, as capitalism did not exist in its present form back in the day of the Founding Fathers. The United States was founded on democracy, more specifically this country is a republic, or a representative democracy. In this country it should always be democracy first, capitalism a much distant second. But the modern perversion of capitalism has blinded us. We’ve gotten to a point where we equate capitalism with freedom and liberty. It’s as if we think the “free” in free market has anything to do with individual freedom. It does not. I’m not against capitalism, but capitalism as we now know it is very much a modern invention. It did not exist at time this country was founded, and when you hear someone say otherwise, you are witness to an attempt to redefine history.
FREE MARKETS: A WORK OF FICTION
There is no such thing as a free market. Why? When you remove sensible regulations from capital markets it allows the wealthy and powerful interests to rig the system in their favor. In the absence of a regulating body this powerful group of people will always attempt to influence government to show favoritism towards their respective companies and industries. It is the job of a regulating body to make sure that the average citizen isn’t getting chewed up and spit out at the will of a small minority of special interests. The whole idea of a free market is predicated on the belief that people cannot be trusted to make decisions (an invisible hand guiding the market) and it’s clearly a belief flawed to the core. No free market can exist in an environment where rich and powerful people like the Koch brothers pour hundreds of millions of dollars on Capitol Hill lobbyists to shape legislation in favor their businesses. There’s no free market there, no invisible hand. And we will never remove this from our system of government because we can all lobby and petition our government, it’s just some people have much louder voices due to the size of their wallets. That’s why the idea of a free market is a work of fiction.
There’s a lot of talk, almost entirely on the Right, about privatizing popular and important public services like Medicare, Social Security and even the United States Postal Service. For anyone who is advocating privatization of these (and other) public services, have you thought about fairness and equal access? How are “public” services rendered fairly and equally if they are privately operated? If a private company charged with running a “public” service is losing share value and it decides to cut off service for an urban area or a rural area, is that ok? Do we just say, “Hey, it’s the invisible hand of the free market that will give us choices and reduce waste, and if people get left behind, so be it?”
Where are the cost savings when we privatize public services? How is it more efficient? Does it make sense to hand-off a service provided by a non-profit entity (government) to a for-profit entity (private company)? Government isn’t in the business of making a profit, so it’s clearly more costly to offer a service when profits are built into the cost of that service. Competition? There isn’t always going to be competition if we are talking about things like parks and prisons, to name two.
We are giving up our power as citizens every time a public service is privatized. We take away our power as voters and citizens who can petition government when we hand over control of a public service to the private decisions in a board room.
Liberals are the real defenders of liberty, freedom, and individualism. We recognize that without a strong functioning government by the people, there will be oppressors and the oppressed. The very core idea of this country was not born out of conservative thought, if it was we would still be a British colony. History is full of liberals taking the lead, paving the road to a better future for everyone, and conservatives adjusting to and then defending each new status quo (to paraphrase author Chris Mooney). It was very much a bold, progressive, liberal idea to form a government by the people. It was idealistic liberals who penned the beginning of our framework of government with the line “We the People.” And for its time, there was nothing conservative about it.