It’s the weekend, the world economy is seriously wounded and running out of control. Hmm. Maybe it is time to sit back and consider all the issues and alternatives. So relax, take off your shoes, get comfortable and sit down to read this challenging 1992 essay by Robert V. Andelson.
“It would require less than the fingers of the two hands to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world’s social philosophers…[He is] certainly the greatest that this country has produced. No man … has the right to regard himself as an educated man in social thought unless he has some first hand acquaintance with the theoretical contribution of this great American thinker.” ~John Dewey
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, people all over the world seem to be searching for a “Middle Way.” Except in North Korea and Cuba, doctrinaire Marxism has been repudiated virtually everywhere, even by the Left. Socialism has become passé. Its adherents are no longer riding the crest of the wave of the future. Even the most energetic apostles of federal meddling, John Kenneth Galbraith, for example, eschew the Socialist label.
Yet, on the other hand, the free market economists of the classical period would scarcely recognize Capitalism as we know it in America today. Such luminaries of industry and finance as Lee Iacocca and Felix Rohatyn advocate a measure of government intervention that would have seemed entirely insupportable to Cobden or Ricardo. In the political field, the major candidates differ mainly on matters of degree. It is not so much a question of “Shall there be federal aid?” as of “How much federal aid shall there be?” or of “How shall it be administered?”. As long ago as the late 1940s, “Mr. Conservative” himself, Senator Robert A. Taft, sponsored a bill for federal housing. Later, another Senate Republican leader, Bob Dole, was a major architect of the food stamp program, which is itself a dole, not just for the poor, but, above all, for agribusiness. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, instituted price controls, and cut the dollar loose from its last tenuous backing with the cynical quip, “We are all Keynesians now”.
But what we are presented with, from Right to Left, is not a coordinated structure embodying the best elements from both sides, not even a well-thought-out attempt at syncretism, but rather a bewildering welter of jerry-built solutions, each one based on political and emotional considerations and lacking any functional relationship to a unified system of socio-economic truth — let alone any rootage in a grand scheme of teleology or ethics.
A little Socialism here, and a little Capitalism there; a concern for the public sector here, and a concession to the profit motive there; a sop to the “underprivileged” here, and a bow to incentive there — put them all together, and what have you got? Nothing but a great big rag-bag, a haphazard pastiche of odds and ends without any bones and without any guts!
Nevertheless, there is a Middle Way. . .