Here's another myth held by idiots:
Liberals believe that businesses create oppression and governments create prosperity.
Do liberals believe this? Not in such absolute terms, but I do think this statement goes to the sympthies of liberals, for better or worse. I think a better way to state the general liberal viewpoint is that when businesses control a given aspect of our lives (for example, if schools were privatized nationwide) then they have far less accountability than the government. Accountability is a strong check against corruption in politics, and if you want to see a government in which a few business and a few powerful families control everything, just check out Mexico sometime.
Do businesses themselves create oppression? Only with help. For example, when a new Wal-Mart moves into the neighborhood, they tend to crowd out other businesses by competing on the basis of price and efficiency. They also tend to depress wages because they make up a large fraction of the low-skill retail jobs. And the reason they can get by paying so little is because they are very firmly anti-union, and that can only happen when the law and the government (which is supposed to enforce the law to prevent such oppression) is on their side.
So customers should shop elsewhere, right? The magic market will punish Wal-Mart by having them lose business due to protests or what have you. No, not exactly. Sure, people have a responsibility to get themselves educated about the what is going on and then make their choice on where to shop if that's a priority. But in the end, the cheap prices trump just about everything.
However, the prices at Wal-Mart do not accurately reflect the cost to society of manufacturing and selling the product. If Wal-Mart weren't able to squash unions, for example, that would drive up wages at their stores and subsequently drive up prices. They would then be less able to drive other places out of business, and we would not only have people making something closer to a living wage, but we'd have more of a diversity of products and services. Maybe they wouldn't be delivered as efficiently as Wal-Mart, but maybe that's a small price to pay for the benefits.
So who is at fault for Wal-Mart ruining the neighborhood, proverbially? Is it the consumers who are voting with their feet? Is it the government for lack of oversight? Shouldn't the consumers get to be the ones who decide where they get to shop? Yes, sure, but consumers should also get to decide issues that revolve around their quality of life. The same consumers who are shopping at Wal-Mart have also expressed a preference over the decades for unionized labor (though that has seriously declined in the last 20 years), for living wages, for family-friendly environments at work, etc. They express this preference by voting, actually voting, not shopping.
They vote to give governments the power to check certain business practices deemed harmful to the community. For example, if a strip club opens next door to my house, which is next door to the elementary school, then it may get tons of business. But the neighborhood citizens have the right, through government, to restrict certain things, even though they may be prosperous. So it isn't a black-and-white, get-the-gummint-off-our-backs issue.
I would say that businesses usually do not create oppression. They instead create jobs, prosperity, and quality of life. But *some* businesses, when they get too monopolistic or too involved in self-regulation (i.e. oil industry executives writing laws to govern pollution) can definitely create a problem, because there is no effective check to balance their power. That situation is also called "crony capitalism", and it can bring countries to ruin if it goes too far. We've seen it happen all over the world, most recently in the Pacific rim countries in Asia.
Does government then create prosperity? No, but it sure enables it. By providing a set of laws governing contracts, businesses, consumers, etc., the government gives a framework in which capitalism can thrive. But don't kid yourself and think we have some kind of pure capitalism in this country. Far from it. The government subsidizes new inventions, new businesses, etc. all the time. Some businesses exist solely to service the government (for example, the defense industry).
Government certainly has *something* to do with prosperity. If it were otherwise, we wouldn't have kicked Russia's ass in the Cold War and left them in such a sorry state today while we thrive. So I think it would be more accurate to say that liberals believe in a capitalism (well, most of them ... there are still some socialists and communists, sure, but every group has its fringe) that is tempered by smart government. Conservatives like to say they don't want gummint interfering in business, but they sure don't turn down the subsidies when they get handed out.Posted by Observer at October 12, 2003 08:13 AM
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