Spent: America After Consumerism
The New Republic, p. 17, June 2009
4 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2013
Date Written: June 1, 2009
Much of the debate over how to address the economic crisis has focused on a single word: regulation. And it’s easy to understand why. Bad behavior by a variety of businesses landed us in this mess — so it seems rather obvious that the way to avoid future economic meltdowns is to create, and vigorously enforce, new rules proscribing such behavior. But the truth is quite a bit more complicated. The world economy consists of billions of transactions every day. There can never be enough inspectors, accountants, customs officers, and police to ensure that all or even most of these transactions are properly carried out. Moreover, those charged with enforcing regulations are themselves not immune to corruption, and, hence, they too must be supervised and held accountable to others — who also have to be somehow regulated. The upshot is that regulation cannot be the linchpin of attempts to reform our economy. What is needed instead is something far more sweeping: for people to internalize a different sense of how one ought to behave, and act on it because they believe it is right.
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