Hitting a Tender Spot on Wall Street

pltocrat In a piece of delicious irony, Paul Krugman, speaking through his oped column in the New York Times, the elitist of newspapers, took on the oligarchs that are desperately trying to ward off the daylight of truth about inequality and unfairness.The article is one of many trying to guess what will be the impact of the surprising (to some) and growing protests against the super-rich and the institutions that have made them so. I have written earlier about this. He pulls no punches in castigating the those against whom the protests are being directed for using the most outlandish, and misconceived rhetoric.

The protestors are asking, relatively calmly relative to the protests against untrammeled power and inequity elsewhere in the world, to be heard. Their message is that the political economy of the US is badly, badly broken when it allows and actively abets a handful of the people to corner most of the wealth of the country. But not by the old-fashioned American way of hard work and fair play. Sure some of the rich have earned it fairly by bringing us goods and services that we all have benefited from. No one in the protest, I believe, would complain that the late Steve Jobs does not deserve all the riches he has acquired. It is those that have broken the rules or changed the rules midstream.

Adam Smith would be appalled at the way the capitalist system he started has been rigged. He was afraid of monopolies and other gross distortions in the economic system. Smith was a moral philosopher, not a modern economist, and saw the emergence of the market as a consequence of an invisible, but morally guided, hand. When the moral core vanishes as it seems to, the consequences we see are not unexpected. Robert Heilbroner wrote in this vein, “A general subordination of action to market forces demotes progress itself from a consciously intended social aim to an unintended consequence of action, thereby robbing it of moral content.”

The shrieks coming from those who are the targets of the protest are shrill and unkindly. The protesters have been well-behaved and responded to excess police force largely with dignity. As Krugman writes, not so from the oligarchs and power brokers. They are raising the screeds of Joe McCarthy from the grave where it should stay. The protestors are as American as Herman Cain is. What is it to be an American? Being born here or living by the values and principles that led to the creation of our nation. Those who cry out against the protestors are the Anti-Americans. Enough from me. You should read the whole column. I recalled as I read this an earlier article by Krugman in the Time Sunday Magazine. With a little searching I think I found it. He had it right close to 10 years ago. Given the time of the year, perhaps we are seeing the first stages of the "American Autumn."

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David M. Carter said:

May Steve Jobs rest in peace. However, I must differ with you about his wealth being deserved. Apple hoards as much cash as any multinational corporation. And, I argue that Apple's products have contributed substantially to hyper-consumerism through planned obsolescence and media hype. Additionally, there are considerable questions regarding Apple's environmental and human rights record in China. If nothing else, Apple is a major contributor to unsustainability.