Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Only Thing We Have to Fear...

I'm afraid that in many respects we're starting to make a tradition out of avoiding many of the safeguards we've put in to guard us against disaster:

After the financial meltdown in the 1930s, we set up regulations and guidelines to prevent safeguard our financial markes, and prevent speculators from collapsing our financial system. This lasted for about sixty years...just long enough for us to forget how the Great Depression started, and for the go-go financeers and their enablers in Congress (of both parties) to "tweak" the regulations enough to remove the impediments to their ability to make money...which were the very protections erected to prevent a collapse. We're living through the results today...and ithe next few years are unlikely to be pleasant.

Our Founders designed our institutions of government to provide a brake on popular passion and emotion, and to slow things down enough for us to catch our collective breaths, and make informed, deliberate decisions on things that were of vital importance. Six years ago, Congress was stampeded into approving a war resolution amid drumbeats insisting that there we were running out of time, and they had to act NOW. Six months ago, Congress was stampeded into approving a $700 billion bailout, amid dire warnings of impending disaster if we didn't act immediately to enable the Government to buy up all manner of toxic assests which threatened to wreck our economy...only to learn that the Treasury Department promptly changed its mind and wasn't using the money as advertised, and that the "emergency" funds were used to fund bank takeovers, and executive bonuses.

Now, we're facing a similar stampede---for an even larger sum of money. With the same drumbeat of crisis. And with the same screeching demands that we MUST ACT NOW!

I've always believed that people in a democracy usually get the government and leaders that they deserve. I think it's time we started acting like grown-ups---someone has to, since our governmental leaders certainly aren't---and demand some answers before we throw any more money down some other sink hole. There's enough divergence of economic opinion on the effectiveness of simply tossing money at the problem in the first place to justify having us all take a while to calm down and look at the problem carefully. In the end, we'd do better to remember the advice of Franklin Roosevelt: our biggest danger isn't time, it's our own fear. And if we act out of panic, we're far likelier to make things worse than we are to solve any of our problems.

It's usually better by far to get something done right than to get it done quickly. And our experiences over the past few years should have taught us that our leaders are quite capable of making mistakes under the best of circumstances; if we're being rushed and pressured into making a quick decision, it's usually because the salesman is afraid that rational thought isn't his ally...and if we have time to consider what we're doing, we'll never approve what he wants us to do.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

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