I know, I can hear you laughing from here. Or maybe you’re laughing while also trying to sing “the cowboy and the farmer…” Bear with me.
In broad terms, the Tea Party says “Big government is the problem not the solution” and the Occupiers say “Greedy corporations are the problem, not the solution.” Am I the only one who agrees with both of these?
I believe in the creative power of individuals. Many of humanity’s greatest leaps forward have come through outstanding individuals who were willing to take fantastic risks to promote a wacky idea. Some of those people are entrepreneurs and some are activists. Besides a bold and creative spirit, what they have in common is that they make positive change even (especially!) in the absence of personal wealth, government funding, noble birth, or pre-existing celebrity. I’m talking about Thomas Edison, Susan B. Anthony, Steve Jobs, Eli Whitney, Harriet Tubman, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, George W. Carver, Bill Gates, and Martin Luther King Jr., among thousands of others.
I want to live in a society that gives these folks the greatest possible freedom to improve my world.
Among many other things, that means fewer government grants to entrepreneurs and activist community groups, because these folks wouldn’t have received such grants! (Can you imagine the state of Alabama giving a “community improvement grant” to MLK in 1964?!) I could go on and on about silly regulations, complicated tax codes, K Street, incentives for bad behavior, the war on drugs, etcetera etcetera, but you already know all that. The point is, we need some government to write and referee the rules, mediate disputes, and defend the nation, but it is all too easy for government to take on tasks that are far-better handled by activists or entrepreneurs, and when that happens, government becomes the problem, not the solution.
It also means not letting big corporations (or unions, or PACs) rig the system against little ones, or to run amok in every environment (the green one, the litigation one, the legislative one, the financial one). Freedom without responsibility is anarchy. I could go on and on about the financial crisis, Monsanto’s predation on small farmers, mountain-top removal, influence peddling, the military-industrial incest-fest, etcetera etcetera, but you already know all that. The point is that we need capitalist corporations to create wealth, provide meaningful work, and structure economies efficiently, but when they amass too much wealth, with no accountability for impacts beyond profit, it is all too easy for them to become oppressive behemoths that hinder the achievement of those same goals, and when that happens, big corporations are the problem, not the solution.
Here’s the deal: I want a small, flexible government that lets people succeed or fail on their own, and uses a minimum of regulations to maximize responsible freedom. I want a free and responsible marketplace, where I am fully accountable for my behavior, and so is the CEO of Goldman Sachs. I don't want my neighbors to watch me die of starvation, but neither do I want to support someone who is fully capable of supporting herself. I think this is pretty much what most people want, including both the angry conservatives who forged a new political party and the dancing liberals pitching tents in downtown Manhattan.
If Tea Party activists and Occupy activists can pierce the fog of cultural warfare, their unlikely mating might birth something truly amazing. The dancing maid and the bitter lad make hasty love on a battlefield, and conceive… liberty!