Friday, July 17, 2009

When the market is your deity, there is no such thing as corruption

Paul Krugman picks two examples of the corruption of conservative political institutions …

Opinions for sale - Paul Krugman Blog -

Politico has a scoop: … The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s endorsement in a bitter legislative dispute … For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: “Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directors….

Think Tank’s Ideas Shifted as Malaysia Ties Grew: ..The Heritage Foundation sharply criticized … Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad … Heritage’s new, pro-Malaysian outlook emerged at the same time a Hong Kong consulting firm co-founded by Edwin J. Feulner, Heritage’s president, began representing Malaysian business interests…

Similar examples of corruption of left-leaning institutions doubtless exist. I was most struck, however, by his closing comment …

… Despite everything that’s happened, I don’t think many people grasp just how raw, how explicit, the corruption of our institutions has become.

During the 1990s and into the Bush era, America confused The Market with The Good, and, in some Protestant groups, with the God. I’ve called this Marketarianism; it’s a kissing cousin of Libertarianism.

In the Marketarian theology they share, the Heritage Foundation and the American Conservative Union are not corrupt. They are merely obeying the Will of the Market. That is right and just.

Few people, other than Paul Krugman and perhaps Frank Rich, have commented on how deeply this corruption has infested our society. We don’t understand what this means. It might help to compare corruption to lawlessness.

You don’t create a lawful society through a police force. Obviously, policing is essential, the police are a last resort. The foundations of a civil society are cultural norms reinforced through everyday examples and interactions.

Similarly, you can’t create a health economic society through regulation. Regulations are as essential as police, but they’re a last resort. A healthy economy requires a cultural foundation of honesty and personal integrity.

We’ve lost that cultural understanding, it’s been eroded by the Marketarian meme. We need to slowly, painfully, resurrect a lost ideal of institutional integrity.

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