By Chuck Kelly
As you read the following excerpt, realize that this article was not on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. It was the lead news story on the front page, August 28, 2003.
Also note that, a few days earlier, the Journal reported that a likely cause of the massive and costly blackout over much of the country was the result of corporate mismanagement and a lack of effective government oversight. Even this article acknowledges the need for better regulations of corporate behaviors.
Apparently not wanting to leave it at that—just reporting corporate misbehaviors and the need for government oversight—The Wall Street Journal editors decided to assign one of its right-wing propagandists the job of equating government regulation by the “left” (Democrats), no matter how necessary and sensible, with communism. (Certainly no reputable journalist would repeat the following Republican mantras in a supposed news story.)
A Lesson From the Blackout:
Free Markets Often Need Rules
Federal Agencies Attack Mistakes
In Electricity, Broadband and Others
By DAVID WESSEL
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The blackout of 2003 offers a simple but powerful lesson: Markets are a great way to organize economic activity, but they need adult supervision.
In the battles of communism vs. capitalism and rigid regulation of economic activity vs. competition, the market won. Despite persistent diatribes from the left, there is little prospect that the U.S. government is going to reinstate old regulations that once dictated how much airlines or stockbrokers could charge customers or determined which long-distance phone company could serve a particular place or shielded owners of power plants from losing business to more-efficient competitors.
Much the same is true abroad: The economic vision of the Chinese Communist Party is moving away from Marx and Mao and toward Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.
The spread of markets, however, is increasingly focusing attention on the need to make them work well—or risk blackouts, bankruptcies and backlash. Spectacular failures, such as the blackout, put market advocates on the defensive, including market-loving Republicans who control the U.S. government. They are now turning from advocating markets to fixing them….
"Our support for markets must not be based on blind faith," Mr. Wood (Patrick Wood, the Bush appointee who serves as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) said in a speech earlier this year. "California will be a constant reminder that poorly designed markets can fail miserably. Ideology alone will not capture the benefits of competition while preserving customer protections."…
The past 25 years offer plenty of evidence that making markets work is a lot harder than simply unshackling them….
Consider the history of football. Soccer, rugby and football have their common origins in games of folk football played in England since medieval times, Mr. (John) McMillan (an economist at Stanford University's business school) writes. "What rules there were had emerged spontaneously: They rested on custom and varied from village to village. Any number of people could play," he says. "There was no referee. ... Little skill was on display, just muscle." Contests were often violent and bloody. In the 1860s and 1870s, rules were written and the modern games of soccer and rugby were born; American football followed.
"An absolutely free market," he writes, "is like folk football, a free-for-all brawl. A real market is like American football, an ordered brawl."…
Until the 1970s, electricity in the U.S. was provided primarily—and successfully—by privately owned, state-regulated monopolies that both generated and delivered power to prescribed areas, and didn't compete with one another. Ever-bigger and efficient power plants brought the price of power down by about 20% a decade, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry think tank….
Of course, when disaster strikes, propagandists like David Wessel must create the impression that Republicans are not a total idiots and ideologues. So Wessel quoted Patrick Wood, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who said, evidently for publicity purposes only, “Ideology alone will not capture the benefits of competition while preserving customer protections.” The implication of the article is that Republicans are capitalist regulators, whereas Democrats are communist regulators.
Naturally, any legislation the Republicans come up with will be designed to achieve three objectives:
Republicans believe that capitalism is a system that should allow the American aristocracy to control markets for their own profit, no matter what the cost to the consuming public.
Often this means that they design rules for the economic “playing field” to favor those with power and money, rather than those who have high moral standards.
Of course, this also means that they must make Herculean efforts to convince the public that this is all in the best interests of the American public. Hence, propagandists write articles like the above in the Journal.
There are so many absurdities in the above article, it is almost insulting to the intelligence to list them. Nevertheless, a brief mention of the most obvious one might be indicative of the extent to which America’s right-wing will go to defend its ideologues.
Most obvious, to equate the past policies of Chinese Communist Party with the kinds of regulations, government agencies and legislation that Democrats have created over the years is criminally stupid. The Securities and Exchange Commission, environmental legislation, social security, national parks service, Communicable disease center, OSHA, etc., etc.—all those things that help civilize a society and that Republicans always equated with communism and opposed—China NEVER had.
And by implication, to equate Mao and Marx with people like Roosevelt and Truman should be beneath even The Wall Street Journal. But that seems, sadly, to be characteristic of the times we live in.