I used to live across the street from a CPA which, by McCain/Palin standards, makes me an economist.
As we continue to unravel, I think we should put the blame where it rightfully belongs. That's with Milton Friedman.
Friedman was the brilliant University of Chicago economist who first came to popular attention with his libertarian response to Kennedy's famous line, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." He said, "Neither half of that statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society."
OK, I get it. Enlightened self-interest and all that. But I think it's bunk.
Yes, you can make a case that this is a sound philosophical foundation for a free society. But as it's been practiced on us, what we get is an intellectual shine on the same old turd of selfishness and greed.
You don't have an obligation to anyone but yourself, so why pay for public schools when you don't have any kids? Why pay for roads you don't use? Why pay for public transit when you own a car?
I've said before that my father raised us kids with a sense of obligation. He said that we had to serve a few years in the military because that's how you support a free country. It's what you owe.
I still believe that. Maybe not the military, but some service, some sacrifice for the good of the nation. But Friedman's GOP followers would say that anyone who serves for any other reason than enlightened self-interest is a sap. That's why there are so many chickenhawk College Republicans. Like Dick Cheney, they have other priorities.
And this is why I blame Milton Friedman for all that's gone wrong. It's not Milt so much as the men and women who have made his libertarian philosophy the cornerstone of their political action. Great theories are always debased when they meet the man on the street.
Take Phil Gramm's Miltonian jihad against regulation. You could argue that he just wanted to make the free market free. But, just look at what happened when that cowflop hit the American street.
There's no better place to get the worm's eye view of how we got into this economic mess than from this episode of This American Life. Go listen to the podcast. It's free.
And I don't mean free in a libertarian sense, so you can relax the grip on your wallet.