Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Democrats' "make love, not jobs" problem 

I generally don't mind when the less fortunate among us complain about the inequities and inequalities of the world - I can understand how some people feel that life is unfair because they have so little while others (the few) have so much - even if this sentiment is illogical and unproductive (it's always better to try to lift oneself up rather than complain, even if unfortunately this isn't the most common response to misfortune; as Bono of U2 has once explained the difference between an American and an Irishman: the American walks by a mansion on the hill and thinks "One day I'm gonna be like him"; the Irishman walks by a mansion on the hill and thinks "One day I'm gonna get that bastard"). Personally, maybe because I grew up under communism (or maybe despite of that, seeing how much effort the Reds have put into creating the classless yet envious homo sovieticus) I don't begrudge people wealth, even if they don't know how to spend it - in the end it all trickles down; even a million dollar diamond ring means a lot of jobs and disposable income for people down the line.

I'm more confounded when it's the rich who complain about the inequalities of society. Take the
"Two Americas" talk by John Edwards, the multi-millionaire trial lawyer. We know which of the two Americas he belongs to together with his running mate, who of his own and through marriage, is one of the richest people in American politics today.

I don't know whether Edwards and Kerry and many others like them are genuinely compassionate people with well developed social conscience, or whether they are just opportunistic populists - the Wall Street talking like the Main Street to win the votes of the Struggle Street. All I know is that instead of redistributing their own considerable fortunes among the poor, John-Johns of this world are more keen to get the government to redistribute everyone else's wealth. I don't deny the logic of this approach: after all, give away your wealth and all your local hobos will be able to buy themselves a hamburger and a coffee, but give away everyone's wealth too and you just might be able to affect a systemic change in income distribution. At least that's the theory.

So it might be logical, but it doesn't make it any less short-sighted. This has been the left's problem all along: the focus on redistribution rather than production of wealth. Both Kerry and Edwards, in addition to being professional politicians, are also lawyers. These are the two main professions which not only themselves don't produce, but at best merely redistribute, and at worst actually subtract from the nation's net wealth (with a caveat that politicians, generally those on the right, can and often do work towards liberalisation and deregulation, which in turn allows citizens to produce more wealth).

Some time ago I had
this to say on the issue:

"Tired of all that 'chicken-hawk' thing? You know how it goes - George W Bush spent his time in National Guard playing cards with his mates, while John Kerry bled in Vietnam, ergo Bush doesn't have any credibility on defense issues, and only Kerry's got the moral right to send our boys and girls in uniform to risk their lives overseas. Repeat the exercise inserting the names of your other favourite bellicose right-wingers who have never heard a shot fired in anger. Then repeat some more.

Makes for nice politicking, but shouldn't the left at least try to be consistent? How about this radical idea: only people who have contributed to economy in productive ways (creating jobs, growing businesses, making inventions, etc.) have the right to credibly speak up on economic matters. As for the others, people who 'made love, not jobs' - let's call them (to borrow from the stock-market jargon) the 'bear-bulls'."
I wasn't serious then - merely making a point about the quality of logic used by the left - in real life, of course, one doesn't need to have been a business leader before entering politics in order to be able to cut taxes while in the Senate or the House of Reps. In fact, many on the right have the pro-growth instincts without having necessarily had much pro-growth experience in "real life."

Not so on the left, alas. And now it's official: the 2004 Democratic presidential ticket is composed of two arch bear-bulls. Yes, John Kerry did serve in Vietnam, as he never tires to telling us, but has he served in America? I'm tired of
"I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty" - how about: I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for a job? Stop saluting and punch a card instead.


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