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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Selling The Houston Speech: Cops in the Suites

posted by Dana at Wednesday, November 19, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Conventional wisdom says Dean’s Houston Speech will be hard to sell.

All you need do is look at the MSNBC headline. “Dean Calls for New Business Controls: Democrat Seeks to Reverse Decades of Deregulation.”

My God, man, he sounds like a Socialist! Class warfare! Etc. etc. etc.

But the response is fairly simple. There’s a crime wave going on in corporate America. We need cops in the suites to prevent these robberies.

It’s all about Law & Order.

Law & Order in the market means more than just catching who we know are criminals at what we know are crimes. Law and order in the market means setting rules that can keep crimes from happening, putting down bright lines that lie well short of actual law-breaking, and enforcing them.

When this is done privately it’s called ethics. And the people who do it publicly are called regulators.

For any market economy to function properly, you must have competition. But it’s in the nature of competition that games will end, and that winners will be chosen. It is at that point that the game must be changed. Otherwise, you have monopolies, which are no better in their way than state capitalism. They have no more incentive to change, to adapt, or to treat anyone well – customers, employees, or shareholders. Where monopolies are necessary they must be regulated. Where they are not necessary they must be prevented.

America did this for a century, but in the last decade these protections have been systematically eliminated. This is true in the media, it’s true in the financial markets, it’s true in the energy markets. The result has been predictable. Without strict laws that are strictly enforced criminals run riot. This is as true for CEOs as it is for drug gangs. If the law can’t reach you there is no difference between the two. But in order to have a civil society, there must be a difference.

Under George W. Bush CEOs have been given permission to plunder the environment, to murder their workers, to steal their pensions, to pervert their markets, and to create what is in essence a kleptocracy. Dean has a great shorthand for this – Enron Economics.

Dean puts the case for regulation better than I do as well. “In order to make capitalism work for ordinary human beings, you have to have regulation,” Dean said. “Right now, workers are getting screwed.”

My only problem is that the word “regulation” starts an argument we don’t need to start. We’re talking about crime. We’re talking, not just of jailing criminals, but of preventing new crimes. That’s all regulation does. It puts teeth in ethics, it keeps everyone on their toes. It makes the market work for those it was intended to work for, the people. Not just the kleptocrats.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.