Kool-Aid and the tea party

Tim Peck has been reading too many Ayn Rand novels [“Occupy Wall Street Protests are Misguided,” Oct. 26 Xpress]. His “Greed is Good, Government Bad” view of unrestricted capitalism is a poor prescription for running a society — if justice, equal opportunity, and a nice place to live are important to you.

Capitalism is there to provide the carrot, the opportunity to profit by beating up on your competitors. That’s the only job of capitalism. Government is there to provide the stick, to level the playing field and prevent a fortunate few from sucking up all the oxygen and wrecking the commons. Unfortunately, the same rewards that motivate the capitalist also motivate the elected official, and a good system of government would prevent the former from having too much influence over the latter. We seem to have lost that distinction in recent years.

It is not the fault of too much government that has led to the runaway income inequalities that characterize the last 30 years, nor to the concentration of financial power that produces banks that are too big to fail and hold our economy hostage to their financial manipulations. It is the fault of too-little government, particularly too-little regulation on those who can pay the lobbyists who ply the politicians to “let the big dogs eat.” Government-paid regulators are completely outgunned by corporate-paid lawyers, and election outcomes themselves are bought and paid for. “Free speech” means unrestricted cash donations to campaign advertising, under no obligation to tell the truth about anything. Is it just a coincidence that the nation with the fewest restrictions on campaign financing is also the one with the fastest-growing income inequality? And one in which corporate taxes — as a fraction of GDP — have fallen to their lowest level in 50 years?

What would be wrong with open primaries to choose moderate candidates who can work together, rather than ideological warriors who can’t? Or campaign-finance restrictions that would not leave candidates beholden to their wealthy patrons? Or do we need to do away with re-elections entirely, since they occupy most of the time and attention of officeholders, leaving them vulnerable to the seductions of the market? I believe that we need the checks and balances that are provided by a free market that is regulated by a government responsible to the electorate — all the electorate — but something is currently out of whack. That’s what the Occupiers are saying.

— Glen Reese

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