Sunday was a day of rest, though I was hardly feeling religious. I sat in a park and finished Brave New World (much better reading than I thought) and last night I finished reading "Reefer Madness", the new book by Eric Schlosser (sp?), the author of "Fast Food Nation". Reefer Madness is an excellent book, though I felt that Mr. Schlosser skimped a bit on the conclusion. However, the book was powerful enough that perhaps a long conclusion would simply be redundant.
One thing I truly appreciated his detailing of the underlying economic issues, but I was curious to know why he spent so much time in the conclusion discussing protectionism and import substitution plans (he didn't use the latter term, but that's what he was referring to). This wasn't a huge topic in the book, though it was obliquely referred to in a number of places. In short, the author spent a lot of time explaining how the USA has never had laissez-faire economics and has always relied on protectionist, government regulation and socialist policies (even today). Heck, even Adam Smith didn't approve of laissez-faire economics, but many today seem keenly interested in hiding this fact. (Either they're deliberately hiding it or they are just ignorant. Either is a strike against 'em)
One irony that Schlosser points out is how Reagan idolized Calvin Coolidge and put his picture up in a prominent place in the White House. President Coolidge was famous for his "the business of the American people is business" quote. He worked to deregulate business and let it operate as it will. Due in large part to this attitude, the Great Depression struck right after Coolidge left office. Naturally, Reagan didn't seem to grasp this. Under his administration, the airlines were deregulated, many went bankrupt and the airline safety record worsened. The savings and loan industry was deregulated and collapsed. We racked up the largest government debt in the history of this country (even adjusted for inflation) but we used the debt to finance a decade long party that we still can't pay for. On top of that, Reagan began the government habit of borrowing again surplus Social Security income and replacing the money with treasury notes (also known as I.O.U.s). If a US corporation were to do that it would be called "creating an unfunded liability" and the officers of the corporation would be brought up on felony charges (if caught).
This is what happens when the government shows more interest in legislating morality than looking after the best interests of the nation. Mr. Schlosser did an excellent job of showing this, but as I'm just dashing off a quick note while at work this entry is a bit disjointed and I hardly do the discussion justice.