A man walking over a bridge late one night sees a stranger about to jump to his death.
Being a compassionate and religious person he stops and says
“Please, before you jump, let me ask you a few questions.”
“Are you religious?”
“Wonderful, we are all G-d’s children. Are you Christian?”
“Marvelous, we are brothers. Are you Catholic or Protestant?”
“How beautiful. I too am Protestant. Are you Methodist or Baptist?”
“So too am I. Are you Original or Reformed”
“So too am I. Clearly Jesus has sent me to you this night. Are you of the reforms of 1879 or 1915”
“Then die heretic scum”
And he pushes the stranger off the bridge
Religion is all about absolutes. Good versus Evil. Right versus Wrong. Orthodoxy versus Heterodoxy. Black versus white. Religion provides the ultimate win/win situation. Each religion has its own way. Some would follow a chosen direction — the Tao, the Dharma, the 8 fold path, the 5 pillars. Others preach salvation through the sacraments or by accepting Jesus as your personal savior. Still others ask only that you follow the commandments and live your life as an example before the nations.
Religions, as the joke above implies, tend to be mutually exclusive. However, all would agree that their system is based on faith — neither data nor logic are relevant. In the words of Tertullian the 2nd century church father, I BELIEVE BECAUSE IT IS ABSURD.
Unlike religion, economic-political-social policy is mostly about shades of grey. There are no G-ds of trade or politics or social policy. The closest we have ever come to economic-political-social bibles are Das Kapital, Mein Kampf, and the little Red Book— which for most of us is definitely heterodox.
Religion deals in absolutes where all who follow the proper belief will win. On the other hand, the economic, political and social issues which will affect our lives now and in the future have no absolutes. In every economic, political or social act one group benefits while another pay the freight. There are no free rides.
This is the difference between the CITY OF G-D where TRUTH reigns supreme and the CITY OF MAN where we try as we can to find some workable truth.
The problem is that the ideologues have confused social science with religion. It is this confusion which is at the root of much of the chaos and misery which at this moment in time affects us all
Those who take an absolutist position are almost invariably surprised when those on their wrong side benefit while those on their right side pay the freight. As with most religious extremists, the economic-political-social ideologues cause mischief, and all to often genuine hardship.
For example, there are those who have made the free enterprise system into a religion with it own orthodox dogma
➢ Government debt is an iniquity to be stamped out
➢ Government regulation of commerce and industry has become abomination before the almighty
➢ Increased taxation is an anathema before G-d
Their goal is clear — to get the government out of the economy. It was summed up by Ronald Reagan: THE NINE MOST TERRIFYING WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARE, “I’M FROM THE GOVERNMENT AND I’M HERE TO HELP.”
To the free enterprise ideologue extremists any data or analysis that disagrees with their belief is declared heresy — a conspiracy of those who would destroy G-d’s creation, the free enterprise system.
Like all ideologues, the free-enterprise extremists offered a win/win solution
a. Free enterprise and the end of government interference will bring growth and greater profits to business
which will bring
b. higher levels of employment
which will bring
c. a larger economy
Everybody wins — nobody loses
After years of pushing their ideology, the ideologues finally won out. In a series shameful acts of cowardice the U.S. government abnegated its responsibility for the U.S. economy, leaving its citizens to bear the consequences.
Unfortunately in our world of truth, there are no win/win situations. Everything is a trade off where one group benefits while other pay the freight.
In late 2008 when the economy tanked it became to apparent to almost all, that the promise of a regulation-free economy was a tragic sham.
The losers were almost everybody
a. The promise of a larger growing economy became a reality of a smaller shrinking economy
b. The promise of higher levels of employment became the reality of higher levels of unemployment
c. The promise of greater profits to business became the physical collapse of some of the largest corporations in the United State
There was but one beneficiary group
a. Those who were appointed to manage these corporations, received large salaries and even larger bonuses at the very moment that their companies were falling into a state of collapse.
Having walked away from their responsibilities, the U.S. government had left the economy in the hands of a bunch of conmen and crooks.
We now face an even greater challenge
At this moment, the U.S. and with it the rest of the world is moving inexorably towards recession. This recession will more than likely be relatively deep. It can be either short duration or continue for many years. Much depends on the ability of governments to take the pragmatic steps necessary to measure benefits against costs.
However, the necessary pragmatic policies will never be allowed to occur, so long as ideologues are once again permitted to turn policy into a religion. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the decision rests with the politicians.