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Prominent Humorist Turns on the Bailout; Remember How Great it Can be to Do Nothing?

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It is bracing to see how being freed of the necessity too many purely political writers feel to be "constructive," "serious," faux-thoughtful, properly respectful of the mighty complications only respected political professionals understand, etc. gets us to some truths.

This piece on why the proper response to the ongoing economic crisis is doing nothing, by the LA Times' humorist Joel Stein isn't quite up to the standards of our own Tim Cavanaugh's take on the bailout, but it was still refreshing to see and will probably be read with more care than anything Henry Paulson says in the next year.

From Stein:

So let's not stop the short-selling of financial stocks—the only brake on overindulgence—as Paulson did last week. Let's not strip Congress of yet another power by giving the Treasury secretary the right to decide where to dole out a large portion of our budget. Let's not encourage more risky loans by making profits private and losses public. And let's not create some bastardized form of communism in which the new rule is, "From each according to his ability, to each according to the size of the investment bank he owns shares in."

And if we really are going to give money to the rich, let's at least follow the rules we demand other countries adopt when the International Monetary Fund bails them out: slash spending, balance budgets and eliminate trade restrictions and subsidies. We also sometimes force them to come here and clean our houses, do our gardening and watch our kids….

The Chinese have a term for it, this wise Taoist recognition of when we should simply not act: wu wei. Knowing the Chinese term for things may become quite helpful in the near future.

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  1. I thought the Chinese term was wa mu.

  2. Unfortunately, doing nothing is rarely good politics.

  3. We need a dance marathon to see who gets to end up with the assets.

    “Charlie, there is enough cough medicine in there to kill a gorilla. If you keep eating it, you’re not going to last five minutes.”

  4. Um, the IMF bails out countries and their governments while in this case the US govenment is bailing out Wall Street, because they’re a bunch of short-sighted, fraudulant morons.

  5. Russ 2000,

    Not funny.

    I recall from my Shodokan days that mushin was Japanese for “no mind”. Kind of a similar idea to wu wei. The executives at Washington Mutual were skilled in something called wamushin.

  6. I thought the Chinese term was wa mu.

    Good one!

  7. “We Proudly Stood By And Did Nothing” only sounds good to us libertarians.

  8. TallDave,

    I agree. Most people would prefer “we proudly rolled up our sleeves and made things much worse, but at least we were TRYING”

  9. “letting the market work” is hardly doing nothing.

    “letting crappy businesses fail” is hardly doing nothing.

    Or is “letting” the opposite of “doing?”

  10. It’s your lack of effort/empathy/whatever that the REAL underlying problem here. No need to get bogged down in the technical details about “money” and “banks” and “incentives” and “consequences” and shit.

  11. “We Proudly Stood By And Did Nothing” only sounds good to us libertarians.

    Dave, you’re good on the WOD but don’t you think it’s a stretch calling yourself a libertarian?

  12. The mostly depends on whether one believes the liberty in “libertarian” extends to 25 million Iraqis.

    I was for the warrantless wiretaps too, but only because terrorists seemed a bigger threat to my liberty.

  13. Anyways, I’ve been told by Dems that libertarians are just dope-smoking Republicans.

  14. Sometimes we must sacrifice freedom in order to preserve freedom. Right, TallDave?

  15. You’ve got to destroy the Iraq to save it, Bingo.

  16. the US govenment is bailing out Wall Street, because they’re a bunch of short-sighted, fraudulant morons.

    Not sure what the referent is for “they” here, but it really doesn’t matter. It works both ways.

    Dave, you’re good on the WOD but don’t you think it’s a stretch calling yourself a libertarian?

    I’m calling a drink on that one.

  17. Sometimes we must sacrifice freedom in order to preserve freedom. Right, TallDave?

    You got me there. Obviously, we don’t need any laws or police, since they impinge on our freedom.

  18. You’ve got to destroy the Iraq to save it, Bingo.

    Bah, next you’ll tell me the invasion of Europe where we killed millions of people was really a “liberation,” or that we had to blow up Korea to keep the southern half free.

    Lies, lies, lies!

  19. Still waiting for the End Times.
    tick….tick….tick…
    Nothing yet?
    Responsible Pundits? assured me that This Was The Day!

    BREAKING NEWS!
    Sorry, we have nothing. Say…have you seen the Sarah Palin interview?

  20. “Anyways, I’ve been told by Dems that libertarians are just dope-smoking Republicans.”

    That’s because your average democrat is to lazy to learn anything about their opponents idologies. They’re to busy buying into catch phrase slogans.

  21. I am still amazed that global stock prices go up when it looks like the Bush administration will take hold of Wall Street and go down when it looks like he won’t be involved. This is a stark contrast from the world that protested Bush every time he visited a city. It’s eye opening to see what 7 trillion can buy.

  22. jtuf-
    The people who own stock and the people who are protesting are generally not the same people. Esp in the ROTW.

  23. Anyways, I’ve been told by Dems that libertarians are just dope-smoking Republicans

    Weird, I’m always told by Republicans that we’re Democrats who know how money works…

  24. Meanwhile, my lights are still on, my ATM works, and my supermarket is fully stocked with thousands of products I don’t need and would never eat. The End Of Capitalism? doesn’t look so bad!

  25. Ed, you mean the end of capitalism never looked so good.

  26. I second ed above.

    I mean really. In real terms, this is nothing; it’s a fee big stupid companies failing. The economy is still growing, unemployment is around 6%.

    And at this point, even if we had something as catastrophic as a 20% drop in GDP, that would drop us to, what, 1990 living standards?

    Let’s face it, we have it awfully damn good.

  27. Actually, I kind of agree with this. I want money, so it’s nice to know that the government hands it out every so often. It’s like the lottery.

  28. That’s not really wu wei, although I do get the application.

    Taoist political philosophy is pretty libertarian though.

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