Saturday, March 29, 2008

Intelligent talk for a change

In honor of my Obama-supporter friends, excerpts from a speech by Senator Barack Obama at Cooper Union, March 27, 2008:
In the more than two centuries since then, we have struggled to balance the same forces that confronted Hamilton and Jefferson - self-interest and community; markets and democracy; the concentration of wealth and power, and the necessity of transparency and opportunity for each and every citizen. Throughout this saga, Americans have pursued their dreams within a free market that has been the engine of America's progress. It's a market that has created a prosperity that is the envy of the world, and opportunity for generations of Americans. A market that has provided great rewards to the innovators and risk-takers who have made America a beacon for science, and technology, and discovery.

But the American experiment has worked in large part because we have guided the market's invisible hand with a higher principle. Our free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That is why we have put in place rules of the road to make competition fair, and open, and honest. We have done this not to stifle - but rather to advance prosperity and liberty. As I said at NASDAQ last September: the core of our economic success is the fundamental truth that each American does better when all Americans do better; that the well being of American business, its capital markets, and the American people are aligned.

I think all of us here today would acknowledge that we’ve lost that sense of shared prosperity.

This loss has not happened by accident. It’s because of decisions made in boardrooms, on trading floors and in Washington. Under Republican and Democratic Administrations, we failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practices. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales. The result has been a distorted market that creates bubbles instead of steady, sustainable growth; a market that favors Wall Street over Main Street, but ends up hurting both.
. . . .

[I]n our 21st century economy, there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street. The decisions made in New York’s high-rises have consequences for Americans across the country. And whether those Americans can make their house payments; whether they keep their jobs; or spend confidently without falling into debt – that has consequences for the entire market. The future cannot be shaped by the best-connected lobbyists with the best record of raising money for campaigns. This thinking is wrong for the financial sector and it’s wrong for our country.
Please read the ENTIRE speech for detailed analysis, guiding principles, and proposals.

I do not know if this is enough, whether it is, in fact, doable at all, because it requires an end to the old Democratic as well as Republican ways of doing things. This is also a somewhat romanticized view of our past, the intent and efficacy of our regulations in more enlightened times, but for goodness sake, let's at least get started back in the right direction, seeking not only to reverse course for our own sake, but to do far better for the rest of the world, as well.

Hat tip to aseekingspirit.

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