A Nation Of Whiners Indeed

Former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas may have been impolitic when he called Americans a “nation of whiners”, but he was actually pretty close to the mark. For a nation that has the kind of wealth across the board never before seen in history, too many of us bitch and moan about it not being enough.

When it comes to the meltdowns in the financial industry, those meltdowns caused by imprudent choices by investors and blindness to greed rather than fact by the financial institutions, the call for bailouts is heard first and foremost. As I've stated more than once, when the investment bankers gambled on the housing bubble and lost, it's their tough luck. There's no way the taxpayers should make good on their failures, their mistakes, their lack of foresight.

As Jen Rubin said during Saturday's Meet the New Press, channeling Larry Kudlow, “No one wants to believe that failure is an option anymore.” It's one of the reasons we keep hearing about bailouts of Wall Street, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and coming soon, GM. It's a dangerous precedent being set, particularly one that removes risk from risky investments. There's no way they should be able to expect the taxpayers to “insure” their gambles. It sets us up for greater failures.

If one never knows the sting of failure, then how can one measure success? Some of the most successful people failed many times before. Their failures didn't lessen them. On the contrary, it made them more driven to succeed. But todays “whiners” seem to think failure makes them less than human, something to be avoided at all cost.

Whatever happened to the philosophy of Friedrich Hayek, the great free-market economist and Nobel Prize winner, who said the great thing about capitalism is the freedom to succeed beyond your wildest dreams, but that there is also the freedom to fail? I believe Hayek once argued that if he had to choose between success and failure, failure is more important in terms of preserving the free-market system.

“Endless” success is an illusion. It is unsustainable, even with taxpayer funded bailouts. Eventually the taxpayers will no longer be able to afford it and the whole thing collapses, creating an ever greater crisis, both financial and psychological. It's something we can't afford. The madness must stop.

So I guess I was relieved to come across a passage from President Bush’s press conference last Tuesday. A reporter asked him about bailing out banks and mortgage markets, and wondered about other entities in the economy that might be crucial, like General Motors. And President Bush said, “If your question is, ‘Should the government bailout private enterprise?’ the answer is no, it shouldn’t.” POTUS went on to say, in terms of private enterprise, that no, he doesn’t think the government ought to be involved with bailing out companies.

We'll see if the President sticks to his guns, or whether the need to prevent failure of any kind will be stronger, spurred on by the “nation of whiners.”

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