Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Choosing between economic systems

Must we choose between a strict dichotomy of EITHER a centrally planned economy OR an unrestrained free market? Can capitalism as we've known it address and satisfy our largest shared long-term interests and challenges (such as climate change)? 

Don Enss

            This is a very challenging question when you consider the great minds that have wrestled with this question for over a hundred years. It has been and will continue to be discussed in our current election and many to come. Proponents on both sides will make their arguments, some of them well-reasoned others just regurgitation of the latest radio talk show celebrity rants and when confronted with a contradiction, they will simply revert to answering with an unrelated comment.

I certainly don’t consider myself in the league with great economists like Keynes, Hayek, Galbraith, or Friedman, but I’d like to offer a few thoughts to ponder. As we discussed in our last class once an individual locks into a theory, it is very difficult for them to keep an open mind to any new information that might challenge that theory. We saw how long supporters of Aristotle clung tenaciously to his observations and theories even, I believe, if Aristotle been alive he would have questioned those and changed his view based on new information.

When I viewed Margaret Thatcher revealing that she carried a copy of Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty as her guidebook on economic theory, I thought about how Paul Ryan praised Ayn Rand - http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/07/7-ways-paul-ryan-revealed-his-love-for-ayn-rand.html and is so smitten by her that he doesn’t allow himself to answer her view that you have to “put your own interest first; that you have a duty to be selfish.” When I hear comments like that I’d like to ask both of them what if your parents or teachers had put their interests first, where would you be today? It’s nice when we’ve arrived at a point of success where we can comment on what we believe is in the best interest of others when it may not really be in their best interest, only in our best interest.

I think as with most things in life balance is the key, too much of one thing or another generally is not in an individual’s or a nation’s interest and for me, it’s generally better to try to lift everybody up than only a few and if everybody in a boat is rowing it will get to where it’s going quicker than if only a few people are rowing and others are just enjoying a free ride.


  1. I think Herman has the "gift" of over-generalization, quote mining, and overstatement. To borrow a Star Trek phrase: to boldly draw inferences where no man has ever drawn an inference before. The "final frontier," indeed.

  2. Trying to lift everybody up is what Bill Clinton calls "Change making," I think, and you're right, Don: real change-makers don't lock into an ideology, they listen and learn and then "move the ball down the field." All that Randian bluster about virtuous selfishness may appeal to a righteous stage of adolescent self-regard but fortunately most of us outgrow it by the time we're charged with the actual responsibilities of nurturing the next generation.

  3. Few are willing to make a sacrifice for something greater than themselves. This is similar to Ethical Egoism, which if i'm not mistaken, is what idea Rand and Paul Ryan are advancing? I've yet to read through, Atlas Shrugged. To play Devil's Advocate here, we need to be able to have a strong footing in order to be able to lift someone up. Someone in a more privileged position, with more intelligence and resources is better able to help someone who doesn't have the same ability. As explained by the education system. Whether they want the help or not is there decision to make. This is ironically similar to the paradox of Zeno, there is so much that is lost in translation between theory and reality.