A central value of liberal economics

One reason I didn’t post for a long while was I was trying to follow all of the economic news and punditry as the economy melted down and cries of socialism came from the campaign. I felt it was a perfect time to hear people talking fervently about liberal versus conservative economics.

I still have much of that chatter to process, but I think I reached one conclusion. There’s a way to determine just how liberal or conservative a person is when it comes to economics: how indifferent are they to human suffering?

A hard-core conservative would be completely indifferent. This is the kind of mindset that suggests we should have let the entire economy collapse in order to weed out the weak actors (both corporations and people) and quickly right the ship. There might be a certain economic logic to this. Yes, the economy would quickly hit bottom, and presumably it would then begin to come back.

Of course, in the meantime, there would be extraordinary human suffering for everyone except the most wealthy among us.

And that’s where liberal values come in.

We must do what we can to limit the human suffering brought on by economic slowdowns. We can debate the most effective way to go about this. I would also say that people who made poor decisions should not be made whole. For example, if you need a mortgage bailout, there should be some long-term implications for you.

But the conservative economic position of laissez faire strikes me as immoral. Economic slowdowns cause both the prudent and the foolish to suffer. No able-bodied person or household who is willing to work at providing for themselves should be left without access to a decent level of food, clothing, shelter, or medical care in the face of an economic downturn – or at any time, for that matter.

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