Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Slippery Slope towards Socialism

The United States has become a society of overly coddled children that demand all of their whims be satiated while absconding any personal responsibility. Consumerism, fostered by an endless barrage of product marketing, has permeated the psyche of Americans compelling an unsustainable accumulation of material goods and an obsession with image and status. The innovative U.S. financial system facilitates this excessive consumption by readily extending credit to anyone who can sign their name, giving little consideration to such factors as income, debt outstanding, or ability to repay. America has become a society of debtors.

Entranced by a desire to project an image of success and accomplishment, Americans indulge in the luxuries of the world, leveraging their assets and mortgaging their future income in the process. Ultimately, these debts come to bear and the overly extended populace cries foul, claiming they were duped by unscrupulous lenders, shifty salesman, and greedy corporations. U.S. political leaders, who previously embraced the housing boom and pervasive availability of mortgages, now rail against the excesses by casting a net of blame far from their shores. In order to assuage their guilty conscience, Congress recklessly proposes an endless array of bailouts, “stimulus” packages, tax credits, and socialization of privately incurred financial risk. Government intervention encourages the excesses that foster risky behavior and a misallocation of capital, preventing the market from properly revaluing assets and imposing a discipline on both consumers and investors.

A market economy functions properly when it is free of government intervention. Paternalistic bureaucrats, in an effort to rescue their constituents from self inflicted hardship and misfortune, constantly propose policies that incent “desirable” behaviors and distort market driven corrections. When the market imposes a severe punishment for misdeeds, politicians react in earnest by legislating sweeping “reforms” and regulation. As any parent knows, one cannot always protect his children from harm, but instead should provide constructive advice and guidance to foster good decision making. By providing exorbitant tax incentives for home ownership while concurrently promoting consumption as a patriotic duty, the government has encouraged overconsumption and excessive accumulation of debt, especially in the housing market. For many, this burden has become unmanageable, resulting in financial failure and personal hardship. Congressional paternalism, however, absolves personal excesses and reckless behavior while burdening the responsible and cautious with the obligations of others. Until philosophies of responsibility, accountability, and individual choice emerge as guiding principals of the democracy, the United States will continue on a slippery slope towards socialism.