Capitalist v. Big Government Debate Not Mutually Exclusive

Posted by By at 20 September, at 22 : 23 PM Print

Hello and welcome to what will hopefully be a helpful discourse on improving government and centering the debate not on ideology but getting things done no matter what color team you are on.  I have titled my column the Radical Pragmatist for the very basic reason that pragmatic solutions have taken a back seat to political strategy, rigid ideology and talking head rhetoric. I want to propose the radical concept of governing for the benefit of citizens at all levels.

I think of myself as a free market tree hugger. I believe in capitalism and open markets but I also believe that capitalism has its limits. Many issues require government guidance and intervention because until the government gets involved in these issues there is no incentive for private enterprise to address them.
I am tired of the free market versus big government debate.  The folks on the extreme free market side expect market solutions to all problems and base this on the underlying theory that markets behave as they do in textbooks.  The hard truth is markets do not behave rationally they are run by people.  People have emotions, self interest and are subject to group think.  If you want to be in a pure free market open up a stall in a third world bazaar where everyone is on their own, there are no guarantees as to quality and safety or recourse for a dispute and the market price truly is set at the point of sale where the transaction is settled with the immediate exchange of hard currency for the goods.  Now compare that with our complex society where we safe  demand goods and services, recourse in the courts and a banking system based on trust to handle the settlements and the long term financing of capital purchases.
As far as the big government folks go there has to be an understanding that the government cannot prescriptively solve all issues. Being a living human has some inherent risk that should be borne by the individual and not the society.  The other issue with government that needs to be addressed is what the goals of intervention should be.
Industry and special interest pay large sums to lobbyist, consumer advertising campaigns and eventually poltitcal campaigns not for a level playing field, not for openness and efficiency but to game the system for an advantage.  If you are going to propose a government solution to me the only winner better be the public, period.
I am going to take on the ideology and spin masters and challenge for real world solutions.  Nothing ticks me off more than moral purist on an issue winning a moral victory.  Moral victories are good conversation but seldom address a need.
I have a problem with the notion that solutions can only come from government or the free market.  I ask you when did they become mutually exclusive?  Here are two examples of government using the free market to achieve superior results: the U.S. military and the U.S. Space program.  The government set end goals, standards, budget and timelines.  Industry designed and manufactures the fighter jets, aircraft carriers, surveillance technology, satellites and space craft. These are sectors the United States is truly number one.  Let’s put the rhetoric aside and realize government-industry partnerships are the solutions and stop debating the ideology.
This column is going to challenge a lot of we take for granted.  I love my country and state as much as anyone but we need to get over the U.S. is number one mentality and do so quickly.  The truth is we are far from number one in so many areas it is scary.  Education nope. Health Care- nope.  Exports, manufacturing, life expectancy, personal savings that would be nope, nope, nope and oh yeah nope.
We NEED to start taking a hard realistic look at ourselves and be brutally honest then we can begin to address the issues.  As the twelve steppers know admitting a problem is the first step to recovery. Now repeat after me “Hi I am an American we got some major issues and we need to get moving”. There is little doubt that the twentieth century was the American Century but that was last century, last decade.  We asked for a world economy and we got it.  The world out numbers us, do we want to compete or just say we do.  Do we want to maintain and improve our standard of living, do we want to remain relevant on the world stage or do we want to become another chapter in the book of Fallen Dynasties.
The choice is ours to make but time is not on our side.  I say, let’s kick the ideology habit, let’s be honest with our selves. There are real problems to be solved.  Sacrifices will have to be made but the twentieth century was the American Century because sacrifices were made regularly for two hundred years.  We were the cradle of freedom, the birth place of independence and the arsenal of democracy. Now we are by capita the highest polluters, the highest consumer society, our factories are idle and we carry the highest personal and public debt in the world. It’s time we added some America’s Best Government to our American Idol diet, a little more Real Problem Solvers and a little less CSI.
Andrew Stein has worked in commercial real estate and banking since 1986.  He currently  consults to private companies and municipalities on real estate, finance, government, political and energy issues.  Mr. Stein is Board Chairman of the $22 million Sustainable Energy Fund.  He is a graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.


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Andrew Stein is the Principal of Stein Consulting Group, an organization that advises on government, energy, and financial policy. Mr. Stein, is Chairman of the Board for Sustainable Energy Fund and is the Economic Advisor for EFMR Monitoring Group. Mr. Stein has over 20 years of real estate banking experience. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. - Email Andrew Stein

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