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In discussing the history of political ideas, I subscribe to Hegel's dialectic.
A political thesis takes hold of the public imagination, followed by a
reaction against it (antithesis) when the downsides become visible,
then a merger of certain aspects of political philosophies originally
seen as opposites (synthesis).
If Reagan-era conservatism was a reaction against New Deal-Great
Society liberalism and bloated bureaucracies, with faith that free
markets, deregulation and rugged individualism could solve most social
problems, it has run its course. We are moving toward a
more communitarian approach, with less faith in free markets and more
desire for regulations to protect the public, and that shift is largely reflected in policies of the Bush administration and proposals of the McCain campaign. McCain, as NYT columnist Frank Rich noted, reversed his initial condemnation of mortgage bailouts in just two weeks, and now flirts with autoworkers about a GM bailout.
The Wall Street Journal provides evidence that we're now in a historic shift of perceptions about the benefits of government regulation:
"Unraveling Reagan: Amid Turmoil, U.S. Turns Away from Decades of Regulation. The housing and financial crisis convulsing the U.S. is powering a new
wave of government regulation of business and the economy.Federal and state governments alike are increasingly hands-on in their
effort to deal with failing businesses, plunging house prices,
worthless mortgages and soaring energy prices. The steps add up to a
major challenge to the movement toward deregulation that has defined
American governance for much of the past quarter-century since the
"Reagan Revolution" of the early 1980s. In fact, some proponents today
of a bigger oversight role for government are Republican heirs to the
legacy of President Reagan." Read the whole thing.
The LA Times adds to the mix by profiling Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's shift from unfettered faith in free markets to chief spokesman for government intervention.
Ed Cone, who tipped me off by linking to the WSJ and LA Times articles on his blog, responds to my thesis.
Posted on 07/25/2008 in Free Market Fundamentalism | Permalink
faith in free markets, free market fundamentalism
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