Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken
gozz@gozz.com

Thursday, January 01, 2004

The misdisestimated doctrine part I: Economics 

Economic philosophies are easiest placed on a continuum, with advocates of an absolute free-market on one end and those of complete state ownership of industry on the other. At the free-market end, the state does not involve itself in economic issues, at the other the state itself is the economy. Such is the linearity on which most political speech takes place.

The Bush administration's policies can't be placed on such linearity: they believe government should generally allow the free-market to thrive on it's own, but that it's the government's role to create and expand the very space for markets to maneuver within.

Iraq was a wet dream for this philosophy: The US could completely gut a state run economy, leaving an entirely new space for capitol investment to flow into, markets freely moving within the space government had created for it. Such a view was eloquently expressed by Iraqi interim administrator Paul Bremer on June 21, 2003 when he spoke of "the wholesale reallocation of resources and people from state control to private enterprise, the promotion of foreign trade, and the mobilization of domestic and foreign capital."

The same philosophy is also apparent in a November 13, 2001 joint statement on the relationship between the Russian and American economies by George Bush and Vladimir Putin. The statement emphasizes a government created space for global capital to work and thrive within: "We are committed to creating conditions that will enhance our trade and investment relations and help Russia reach its economic potential as a fully integrated and leading member of the world economy."

Domestically, one can see the same philosophy at work: Changes to Medicare are in line with their "creating space for markets to thrive within" philosophy. The bill is a government earmarking of hundreds of billions in capital - $400 billion in the first decade and over $1 billion in the next - to inject into the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. At the same time it expressly prevents government from playing a role in drug price negotiation. The bill creates a multi-billion dollar playpen for drug and healthcare markets to freely operate and thrive within.

In summary: the Bush administration's view on the economy is that it's the government's job to create markets, but not meddle with them. This is neither a free-market, nor state controlled economy viewpoint; neither can it be placed on a continuum between the two extremes. It's off that linear map, and when you try to force it on to a two dimensional line, some will place it more on the "left", some will place it more on the "right". If you realize it's a new, radical philosophy, you can see it for what it is: neither right-leaning or left-leaning, but radicalized in a different, third dimension.

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