After watching the majority of President Obama’s health care summit, I finally understand the root of this great philosophical divide that separates Democrats and Republicans.
Trust. Precisely, who do we trust to manage the public interest? Democrats trust government; Republicans trust wealth.
In the democrat ideal, government polices big business and the wealthy in order to prevent weaker segments of our society from being victimized. In the republican ideal, wealthy individuals and corporations police themselves and provide incentives to lift up weaker segments of our society.
Both are right; both are wrong. In the real world, we need both government regulation and responsible wealth. The perfect balance would be somewhere between extremes of government intervention and total deregulation.
Looking back, this seems to be a constant struggle in our nation. In the early 1900’s the pendulum was at the republican end of the spectrum. Wealth ruled (and some would say, built) the nation. It also repressed the majority of American workers.
Fearful of class warfare and seeing some of the consequences of unbridled greed come to fruition (e.g. stock market collapse), we pushed that pendulum back, enacting progressive taxation on wealth, regulating business practices, instituting unions. Government took a larger role in our society.
This continued until the 60’s. By then unions had become too powerful, government too intrusive. People rebelled. Fears of Big Brother ran rampant. Assassinations sapped our morale, Nixon’s enemies list drew ire, Viet Nam became a rallying cry. We pushed the pendulum again.
Enter the 80’s and the Reagan Revolution. Taxes were trimmed, regulation reduced. Greenspan let the markets innovate. The 90’s bubble inflated and burst; the housing bubble inflated and burst. We began to see the consequences of unbridled greed. Even Greenspan had to take off his Free Marketeer ears when he heard the markets begin to crumple.
In 2008 we pushed the pendulum again, electing Barak Obama on a platform of Change. And, as always happens when the pendulum is pushed, there is opposition pushing hard against it. Most likely the pendulum will overcome their efforts and we’ll start the cycle yet again.
I certainly hope so, because the alternative is ugly.