Capitalism, Socialism and Gasoline

May 21, 2010

Together with the expected yet beyond horrible images of the continuing devastation wrought by the mega-oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, some unexpected scenarios have emerged. I am not referring to the temporary silencing of the “Drill, Baby Drill” slogan of Sarah Palin and her supporters. Rather, all those who have made their political careers from touting their credentials in getting the government off the backs of people and private corporations such as BP, are suddenly screaming for more federal government intervention. Bobby Jindal, the quasi-desi Governor of Louisiana is just one such person who is suddenly repudiating everything he has stood for in the past by demanding instant federal government intervention.

Coming immediately on the heels of the Wall Street collapse, when the economic experts who feigned surprise that the corporate executives did not regulate themselves and grabbed whatever they could and more, the BP oil spill tragically and graphically demonstrates the fallacy of the illusions of the so-called “free market”. Until now at least, nobody quite knows the full extent of the damage as it unfolds. One wonders what the reaction of the so-called Tea Party folks will be once they actually stop partying, get over the rhetoric of any governmental intervention as “socialism” and smell the gasoline.

The fact remains that there never ever was period when a so-called “free market” led to the unlimited prosperity and happiness for all, until a so-called “socialist” government intervened and ruined it for everyone. Total state regulation or complete lack of regulation both lead and have consistently led to disasters – social, natural and technological. In the theoretical world, there are no constraints to constructing models that have no bearing to the real world. In the real world, however, the issue is never if private corporate greed should be brought to heel or not. Rather, it is always an issue of how much and also, given the enormous power such corporations wield at many levels from the economy to the media, exactly how? It will always be a constant fine-tuning operation, and depressingly enough, disasters such as BP and Exxon Valdex will continue in the foreseeable future. Until at least we are weaned off the prospect of making false choices between a so-called perfect “socialism” or “capitalism” and recognize that social life itself cannot be unambiguously sequestered and confined to such watertight either/or categories.

Obviously I wish that the power of corporate greed, whether naked or dressed up in seductive trashy fiction such as Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, will one day be drastically contained. However, if wishes were horses, commonsense would be jobless!

Commonsense is in the business of peddling commonsense or so he believes, since others think of his wares as patent nonsense or even worse.
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