Monday, September 29, 2008

Real Space Age Technology

I tried posting this a while back but it didn't really fly (pardon the pun). I'll try again, because I think you'll see that:

a) We were so wonderfully naive in 1985. No one cared that video game graphics consisted of lots of right angles, and we could watch a commercial comparing a minivan to the space shuttle without a whole lot of irony. The future was a field of boundless possibilities!

b) There's no way anyone ever took a corner in an Aerostar going that fast. I know this. Our family owned two, and I turned 16 during the reign of the Blue One. (The Blue One was subsequently wrecked during a Nevada blizzard in January of 2002. I admit, I was at the wheel. My new bride was in the passenger seat, and my dear father was sleeping on the middle bench. The back was stuffed with stemware and small kitchen applicances. All humans and appliances survived swimmingly. I came three millimeters from having a screw in my skull. My dad bounced off the ceiling one time and tweaked his neck a bit. Thank you three-feet-deep gravel on the shoulder of eastbound I-80.)

I hope it works this time. Enjoy:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bernanke: Approve Bailout or Risk Recession

Reads the AP headline. That was the latest threat from the Grand Poobah of Finance. I, for one, say let's risk (oh no, risk!, as if that ever stopped anyone in a corner office) the recession. Is the free market really free? Is capitalism, in the words of George Will, a system of individual gain and loss? Or just all gain all the time? I understand that the implosion of giant corporations entails a certain amount of collateral damage. I understand that I am a man of little means and my retirement isn't tied up in this alleged mess. I understand that I really don't understand anything about the twisted logic of global finance and speculative trading (aka legalized gambling). So all you eggheads can go ahead and set me straight. I'm sure someone will be able to tell me how these companies were indirectly responsible for the overall prosperity of the nation over the last ten years, that it all trickles down, and that these noble companies were taking on all the risk for little old me and now I want to have it both ways by punishing them for our collective greed.

So, fine. Let's pull the trigger. But I will tell you this: I don't want to hear any more preaching about government regulation of economic resources. No more drawing a halo and wings on the "free market." No more romanticization of the private sector, no more griping about welfare. Whether it's necessary or not, this is welfare in a tuxedo. This is "redistribution of wealth" (gasp!)

We can spend billions on this bailout but we can't guarantee our citizens basic health care? Don't get me wrong, overall I like our economic system, I think it works pretty good. But it is what it is. Sometimes it doesn't work all that well. And now we're gonna cry about it. Now we want that other system: the one where someone takes care of us. The one where the many take care of the few. The one where public money subsidizes private risk.

Fine. Let's throw 700 billion at them. But no more pretensions. We are a social democracy, not some pure market democracy, and not some libertarian paradise where everyone rises and falls on their own merits, and where charity is meted out by private parties and the government steers clear. I hope that now we can just accept this and move on.


Interesting footnote: An open letter from prominent economists to Congress.

Also, I really am serious about being persuaded by someone smarter than me (in layman's language, of course) why the bailout is a good idea. The rant is for provocation and good blog copy, but I'm still open to new perspectives.