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Shameless

February 13th, 2009 by Bill Brown · 1 Comment · Politics

The birth of octuplets to a single mother of six children caused a significant stir in the United States. Outrage boiled over when it was discovered that she was on welfare and unemployed. Bloggers and talk show radio callers second-guessed the choices she’s made in her life, questioning the wisdom of her fertility treatments, her parenting skills, and even diagnosing her presumed psychological problems. Anything in her life was fair game for comment and discussion.

Meanwhile on the other coast, Barack Obama was assailing executive compensation on Wall Street. He described the bonuses executives received as “shameful” and renewed his finger wagging at the bank that dared to buy a corporate jet. His outrage over these incidents led him to limit executive salaries at financial institutions accepting bailout money to $500,000 per year. (And some would have him go further still.) {via}

These two incidents are normally private issues. If a woman wants to have a litter of babies, it’s her option so long as she does not mistreat them. Similarly, companies pay their CEOs whatever they want without having to answer to anyone but the shareholders. Ostensibly, however, Nadya Suleman and Bank of America have given up that power by accepting money from the government. It’s a doctrine used to justify meddling in areas as diverse as family planning, highway construction, and education. Seemingly, few contest this strings-attached notion.

To my mind, it is all a red herring. Rather than quibbling about the specific decisions that a Board of Directors made, we should be questioning why the federal government is taking our money to give to any companies at all. Instead of arguing that a salary cap would hinder CEO retention and recruitment, we must get the government out of the market entirely. Hesitation about interfering in the employment contract didn’t last much longer than Lochner and is enshrined in current minimum wage laws. So the real issue to address isn’t one of micromanagement, but the idea of management as such.

Welfare, whether corporate or personal (in the case of Miss Suleman), eliminates the negative half of the right to liberty. The underlying principle is that you can do whatever you think it takes to succeed in life but you’re on your own if you were wrong. The sooner we get this principle ensconced anew into our system, the sooner the Sulemans and Geithners of the world can stop impinging (and infringing) on our lives and our pursuit of happiness.

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