When the U.S. was sold a bill of goods by the Reagan Administration and its rational choice/free market mavens, Americans were promised that the invisible hand of the economy would cure all ills.  You take care of yourself, your neighbors take care of themselves, and society will right itself from the shoals of the Nixon/Ford/Carter years. What people didn’t catch on was how that spirit of what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also mine if I can get it, would devolve into a financial and ethical free for all that would cut off the American way of life at the knees. How could Americans really think that as individuals they would be able to overcome the aggregate power of corporations and other vast financial interests which freed themselves from the one entity capable of controlling them, the government? But no, governmment was the problem, not the solution.

Americans failed to realize that the problem was not government but mismanagement.  Seduced by the promise of lower taxes and cheap goods, American consumers devoured the toxic cotton candy of rational choice/free markets. Now, thirty years later, we are having to cope with a metastasized financial cancer that threatens the life of the nation.

The subprime mortgage debacle, rising energy costs and spreading joblesness have finally woken up the country. (Never mind that in real terms, after inflation is taken out of the equation, the average American family has not made any financial headway in the last thirty years–and that now it requires two income earners to support a family that used to be able to make do with one salary.) Real gains have been realized almost exclusively by the top ten percent of the U.S. population, the lucky, well connected few.

Yet, more than just money and financial security has been lost. Americans have also lost the spirit of community and cooperation, the feeling of ‘we’re all in this together,’ that kept us going through the Great Depression and World War II.  America has become atomized, splintered into separate and competing worlds by a philosophy that makes egoistical satisfaction the end-all and be-all of existence. Kenneth Arrow, the Dr. Frankenstein of rational choice, called this state of being “the sovereignty of the consumer.” It should propertly be called the foolish state of the deceived.

It’s time for a change.


  1. Ted Burrett Says:

    I follow your posts for quite a long time and must tell that your articles are always valuable to readers.

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