11 December 2008

contemplating "self interest rightly understood"

a child of the french revolution, alexis de tocqueville believed that democracy in america worked because local liberty encouraged individuals to be involved, to associate with one another to define, address, and deal with their collective needs and aspirations. it worked because self interests were realized by making the community a better place. sadly, however, we have seen this philosophy run amuck the past eight years, by and for an administration so mired in their own egocentric philosophies, that the country, the world, and the individuals who fell prey to its promises of wealth, have let the can turn to shit.

though things will undoubtedly get worse before they can get better, I’m a hopeless believer that enlightenment is just around the next bend. I mean, that’s why obama won. it was the community organizing, the belief that “yes we can” make the country better that riled up a nation, that got us knocking on doors and making phone calls, to elect a new direction for our country and ourselves. it was that collective we that came together to restore the ideals that made american democracy the envy of the world in the first place, as opposed to the symbol of greed, hatred, and imperialism that has terrorized us since 2001.

this morning, while I was reading joseph stiglitz’s article, “capitalist fools” in the latest issue of vanity fair, (http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/2009/01/stiglitz200901?currentPage=1), it sorta dawned on me that it was enlightened self interest that won the campaign, and will turn the country around. to quote the author, "The truth is most of the individual mistakes [in the recent history that brought about the demise of the american economy] boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal... The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today."

markets aren't self-adjusting, not when the factors that impact the fluidity of the market are in the control of individuals. and in the case at hand, the individuals controlling the factors that've impacted the fluidity of the market have been motivated by greed (and not just greed, but disgustingly blind-sided eregious greed). we let individualism without bounds rule the roost without any regulation or oversight, simply believing that the markets would self-adjust, and the only thing that adjusted was the safety of our money in the banks, and the discrepancy in income between the poorest and wealthiest in this country.

choices weren't made within the ideologies central to the american philosophy of democracy, that enlightened self-interest would lead individuals to further the interests of the group. instead, we empowered the egoists to destroy the america we were, for the sake of a few bucks. that's over, and a new america has spoken. the old america, the real america, the america that inspired a world to believe in freedom. we're taking it back, and we're going to watch over, regulate, and influence with a self interest rightly understood...


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