Monday, September 22, 2008

Politics Part Next: Economics

I don't pretend to understand the whole Fanny / Freddie / AIG / Whatever's Next fiasco. If you want a cogent, thorough analysis (which I completely agree with) check out John Medaille's blog, The Distributist Review. He points out that when it comes to Big Finance, "profits are privatized; losses are socialized." Nicely said (and sadly true)!

Clearly, economics is an important topic these days. As I've mentioned several times before, I'm not a Capitalist (dang, there goes my political career!). I'm not a Socialist either -I'm a Distributist. For new readers, distributism is a third-way economic philosophy that advocates for wide-spread, small-scale ownership of productive property. Power to the people, baby! Distributists dislike Big, whether it's Big Government or Big Business... and as recent events have shown, there's not much difference between the two.

I think one of the main questions an economic philosophy (or political candidate) needs to answer is this: Who Should Pay? If a person wants or needs something, whether it's health care, an iPod or a meal, who should pay for that something? I suspect you can build an entire economic philosophy by simply answering that question. There are other questions as well, but let's start here.

Personally, I think the individual should pay for the thing. In the case where the individual cannot pay, that person's immediate family (parents/adult children) should pay. Thus, the mom and dad should buy diapers for the infant, or the adult children should care for the elderly parent. If the immediate family cannot pay, the individual should look to (in order): extended family, friends, the church, local businesses, local government, and finally non-local government. Clearly, I'm an economic nutcase. 

If you're wondering why business comes before government on my list, it's partly because being a good neighbor is good business and I like to encourage good business... and partly because I hold to the principle of subsidiarity, which basically says a larger unit should not perform a function which can be performed by a smaller unit. So my list is basically in order of increasing size. 

This doesn't mean I'm against cooperation - far from it! I'm just pointing out that when a group gets too big, participation ceases to be cooperative and becomes coercive (did anyone ask if you wanted to buy AIG?).

Similarly, I'm convinced it is good for the distance between consumption and payment to be as small and transparent as possible. I think we should be aware of the costs involved with the things we consume, whether we are paying them directly or not (check out this post on "freeways" for more on that topic).

Any thoughts on which party might get anywhere close to this position?

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