Can't Government Leave the Market Alone?

The Republicans, as we all heard, maturely responded to Pelosi by banging their little fists on the floor and refusing to play anymore. Wah-wah-wah. Remember when Republicans were the outsiders in D.C.? Now they are such corrupt Washington insiders that, like a group of palace courtiers, they are willing to put the entire U.S. economy at risk over protocol and etiquette.

As for the two presidential candidates, the less said the better. Sen. McCain, sensing a great PR opportunity to show that he is both a leader and a Beltway Pharisee, blasted into Washington, made a lot of noise, accomplished little, and was all but run back out of town. Sen. Obama, who appears to be up to his neck in Fannie Mae "contributions," did as he always does: said a few platitudes, (metaphorically) voted "Present" and took off as quickly as he could.

Meanwhile, while this absurdity is going on, the stock market tanks, and the U.S. economy loses $1 trillion.

It is impossible not to look upon all of this as kind of a vast, predictable pantomime. The same people who created the mess are honored for (sorta) getting us out of it, a few scapegoats go to jail, the real perpetrators not only escape punishment, but are often rewarded, a bunch of regular people get screwed (lose their jobs, go bankrupt), and a whole lot more end up paying the bill for 2 million failed mortgages that never should have been granted in the first place.

The American people know this, which is why:

1) They aren't taking this current crisis as seriously as pundits say they should -- after all, if our elected officials can play politics against their enemies, and take the time to lard the bailout bill with pork, why should they?

2) They have nominated for president two candidates who -- ostensibly -- represent "maverick" attitudes and "change."

The Economic Crisis

To my mind, what makes this economic crisis different from ones in even the recent past is that it has exposed the fact that there are, apparently, no real leaders left in Washington -- that the intellectual capital in the national capitol has fallen to a new low, if that's possible. Most of all, it shows that we can no longer look to D.C. for leadership into the rest of the 21st century.

Marxists and statists of all stripes are, as one might expect, rubbing their hands in glee and declaring this the final death crisis of capitalism. But I think just the opposite is occurring. What we are, in fact, seeing are the final death throes of governmental social engineering. As I noted two weeks ago, we are in a kind of Mentos-in-coke world right now -- where, thanks to tech, the sheer speed of transactions and the enormous breadth of response, almost any outside influence can quickly turn the whole economy (or culture) into an explosive brew.

As it happens, out here in Silicon Valley, we have been conducting our own social engineering experiments. Three, in fact, have been at least as sweeping as Freddie Mac's changing of mortgage eligibility rules. One of them has been to wire the entire world in a huge, high-speed global information grid (the Internet). Another has been to restructure the entire entertainment industry and its pricing model (the iPod). And the third has been to empower the citizenry to form groups based upon common interests, rather than the limitations of physical proximity (Web 2.0 -- social networks).

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