Friday, November 21, 2008

Clouds of Financial Crisis: Imagining Silver Linings

While everyone is quite reasonably discussing all the bad things that might result from the darkening thundercloud of economic malaise, it is possible to imagine silver linings:

  • We might finance not old, tradition-bound, anti-environmentalist Detroit but new car companies that could transform the way America drives.
  • We might finance the development of world-leading green industries.
  • We might decide that being a good neighbor trumps global imperialism, not to mention being way cheaper.
  • We might decide that just a little redistribution is better than the widening social gap, that the emphasis of domestic policy should be on setting minimum standards of living, housing, and health care rather than maximizing GDP, no matter how grossly unfair its distribution.
  • We might decide that the mind-numbing debate between the two major, hide-bound, uncreative, self-centered parties about "regulation" vs. "no regulation" should be supplanted by an effort to determine what should be regulated (e.g., the use of others' money) vs. what should not (e.g., venture capital).
  • We might decide that a rational combination of some wealth plus some security would better be achieved not by a blind push for endless globalization but by some thoughtful combination of some global businesses plus some local (e.g., make special rules to encourage the success of local banks protected from the high winds of global finance and with very conservative investment strategies).
  • We might decide that wealthy and powerful corporations have a responsibility for the impact of their actions (e.g., before banks can foreclose, they should take action to ensure that the families put out on the street get some help in finding and paying for a modest apartment, perhaps with the bank sharing the rental cost; e.g., the principals of Wall Street firms that are found to have concealed their investment strategies from government regulators in order to get away with risky behavior should be required to pay back all personal benefits received on the job and then fired).

We might decide there is a better way to run a country.

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