Every sane adult knows what it takes to pull out of an economic deadfall: You tighten budgets, cut inessentials, pay as you go and restructure your debt -- and hang on to your current job for dear life. And we also understand that, when it comes to a national economic crash, the same principles apply -- with the addition that you stimulate the economy briefly with increased spending, you cut taxes and loosen onerous regulations, maintain free trade because the alternative is so much worse, and you support innovation and new company creation in hopes that a new cohort of hot companies will help pull you out.
What you don't do is nationalize industries under emergency rule and make them less efficient, you don't conduct social experiments with large segments of the economy, you don't increase expensive regulations on industry, you don't pile on massive amounts of debt that will flatten any economic turnaround when it finally comes and that will take a generation or more to pay off, you don't turn against entrepreneurs as they are your last best hope, and you don't increase taxes on the most productive members of your economy.
Only fools and ideologues don't know all of this. And yet, that is what smart people in Washington did in the 1930s -- at the very moment when they seemed to have the Depression beaten -- and that is what Washington seems to be doing today. Perhaps we just can't help ourselves. Perhaps economic crashes are just so intrinsically heartbreaking, creating such a sense of betrayal in the electorate, that we can't help but turn on the one thing that can save us -- free market capitalism -- and reach in desperation for the weak straws of socialism, statism and, if worse comes to worse, absolutism and totalitarianism.
And that worse may be coming soon. When the world seems crazy, it's usually because it is. It's too late for Twitter and the iPhone 3G or any other hot new product or technology to pull us out of this one. The country's entrepreneurs, abandoned and running out of money, are disappearing. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., alone among all of the cities of the United States, is enjoying a boom.
It's a good time to be in government. It's not so good a time to be living in Bandon, Ore. And not even the roar of the waves can mask that little voice in your head whispering for you to brace yourself, because things may soon get a whole lot worse.
This is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Michael S. Malone is one of the nation's best-known technology writers. He has covered Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 25 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury News as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He was editor of Forbes ASAP, the world's largest-circulation business-tech magazine, at the height of the dot-com boom. Malone is the author or co-author of a dozen books, notably the best-selling "Virtual Corporation." Malone has also hosted three public television interview series, and most recently co-produced the celebrated PBS miniseries on social entrepreneurs, "The New Heroes." He has been the ABCNews.com "Silicon Insider" columnist since 2000.