It happens every time! As soon as things get a little rocky, Piety sits up in her coffin and starts wagging her finger. This time, the object of her scorn is greed. Just because of a little economic meltdown, greed is being taken out to the woodshed for a good licking.
So what if the president of the World Bank is telling us that “the global financial system may have reached a ‘tipping point’ when a crisis cascades into a full-blown meltdown and becomes extremely difficult for government to contain.” This is not an occasion that calls for sack cloth and ashes. Rather, it is a time to take a deep breath and put things into perspective.
Quite frankly, the problem was not too much greed, it was too little. Bear in mind that capitalism has but one aim, and that is the maximization of profits at any cost, and the only way to do that is with a lean, mean greed that has been stripped of all of its excess baggage.
Greed only becomes a problem if it is wed to discernment, the ability to use the critical faculties to take a long-range view of the possible unintended consequences of a given action. Such a marriage inhibits growth. Once greed sheds discernment, it becomes pathological. Then, and only then, does it become an instrument of regressive growth.
As discernment wanes, the temporal frame of reference begins to shrink from decades to years to months to quarter, until it becomes a tiny pinprick that sees no further than the closing bell. It is at this point that greed is at its most dynamic and becomes an instrument of robust growth.
Of course, such a strategy requires that an endless series of bubbles be inflated. As soon as one pops, another must replace it. Naturally, there will be moments in history when the final bubble is popped and the economy goes into shrink mode. Not a problem. It’s not a meltdown; it’s a growth experience. Once the wheat is separated from the chaff, things begin to ramp up.
Piety starts wagging her finger and the government intervenes to abate the suffering, which, if left untouched, would strengthen character and lay the foundation for the next series of bubbles. This is what happened with the New Deal: piety spoke, the govenrment listened, and the results were World War II and a Cold War.
Fortunately, there is a crucial difference between Great Depression I and Great Depression II. When the first one hit, the Left was organized and ready. There a strong labor movement and a thriving Socialist Party. With this one, both are fragmented and ineffectual. The only coherent force remaining is capitalism, and we all know captialism has wax in its ears when it comes to piety’s rants.
What America needs at this point is more greed, not less. So get McCain on the phone and tell him to stop badmouthing the one force that will pull us out of our economic funk.