Keeping up with the Jöneses!

Maybe it’s just me. I always thought we lived in the greatest country in the world. When I was a kid, I remember hearing people saying that and agreeing with them. As I got older, I started to understand what made this country great: things like having the freedom to live where we want; to marry who we want or not to marry if we didn’t want to; the freedom to stay out all night or go home early if we wanted to. Freedoms too many to name and to easy to take for granted. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be born in this country and at this time.

As my political and sociological experience grew, I also learned the mechanisms of what makes these freedoms possible. And that hand in hand with social freedom was economic freedom. The capitalist economic system is the engine that runs the social freedoms we enjoy. We are free to participate as much or as little as we choose. These are things I thought we all knew. I just assumed that there was no debate about these things, since we have become the icon of freedom in the world and the richest nation in the world, all in the span of about 230 years.

It seems I may have been a little naieve. I thought we had made the case and that it was closed. We’ve accomplished so much more in our short history than any other nation on the face of the earth. Why? Because we have unleashed the power of the human spirit. Rugged individualism is the hallmark of our nation and we have come to represent the ideal for millions if not billions all over the world. Did we do this by accident? By divine intervention? By massive conspiracy started by George W. Bush’s ancestors? Who knows for sure?

Whatever it is, it has a name: American Exceptionalism. We have done as a nation something that no other nation has done. And we alone can solve whatever problems we have by doing the things that made us great in the first place. Down South, we have a saying for this: Dance with the one who brung ya!

Now I’m hearing and seeing a lot of things happening which makes me wonder if the case isn’t closed after all. Like I said, I thought the case for capitalism was over, done, close the book. I did a quick bit of investigating and found some great tables in Wikipedia. They list GDP any which way you want to slice it. And they have the sources for that information as well. Regardless of whose numbers you use, the US still has the highest GDP of any nation. Think about a country like China with a potential workforce approaching 1 billion. They only rank third. The US on the other hand, with less than one-third of China’s workforce, produces not just three times China, but almost as much as the other four of the top five COMBINED! Seriously, case closed right?!?

Well now we are trying an experiment with the US economy. We’re going to see if we do the same things those other countries in Europe and elsewhere do, if we can fix the economic problems we’re having right now. We’re nationalizing all of our biggest economic sectors: auto manufacturing, banking, and probably, healthcare. We’re hoping that since we can spend more than any other nation ever has, we’ll have a different result. In the last year and a half, we’ve spent $1.5 trillion to try and reinvigorate the US economy and so far we are mired in near-record unmployment, a stagnant stock market, and an almost non-existant housing market.

Do we as a nation think that we have to do what hasn’t worked for any other nation – ever?!? I say we dance with the one who brung us. That means free-market-based solutions to our problems. Will there be pain? Sure. But it will end, and a lot sooner than the pain we’re going through right now. This means letting companies who can’t compete in the marketplace fail, no matter how big they are. New companies will sprout up to fill the void left by these big companies. Healthcare a problem? Nope. Just reintroduce free-market solutions back into the equation. We’ve eliminated the potential for us to go in and negotiate our own price with the doctors. We’ve given over our negotiating power to the insurance companies. Are you really that unhappy with our current system that you would wager our children’s future on a losing proposition? I’m not. I’ve had no problem getting the health care I need, insurance or not.

For the record, I still think we are the greatest country in the world. Precisely because we can have this failed experiment tried on us over and over again and still come out on top, which we will. It’s just going to take a little longer – until someone wises up and starts cutting taxes again.

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