Ep 28: The Great Disconnect

Historically, Utahns espouse Enlightenment values of political liberty, free markets, limited government, responsibility and personal initiative.  As the political right sees it, this is their turf.

Even so, this conservative Mormon state turned liberal in 1932, then stayed there until Dwight Eisenhower’s election two decades later.  Not so for Father.  His Ayn Rand obsession could never co-exist with Franklin Roosevelt’s depression-busting, market-meddling.

Buss was raised to detest the Mormon Church.  But he was also raised with political values similar to those favored by Mormon fundamentalists. What a curious love-hate relationship!

He loathed Roosevelt’s New Deal that created jobs for public trough-feeders, as he called them.  He was a maker, not a taker.

Liberal economists came in for special loathing.  One was Harvard’s JK Galbraith.  Even before turning 35, Galbraith served as Roosevelt’s czar for wartime market controls.

The liberal professor may have been offensive to Buss, also, because Galbraith epitomized the self-made man to which Buss aspired. Surly the Great Depression was not kind to Buss Sawyer’s dreams.

Galbraith was a leading proponent of the ideas of Cambridge economist JM Keynes.  Prior to leaving college prematurely, father’s major was economics, but a pre-Keynesian version, absent any serious government role.

The path out of depression was obstructed by business under-investment and household over-saving, according to Keynes and Galbraith.  Buss, who never saved much, was opposed mightily to any view encouraging public meddling in saving or other virtuous private values.

So, here lies an illustration of a great disconnect in American economics and politics, even touching Buss’s perspective. The political right argues, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.  If saving is a virtue for households sometimes, then along with other conservative values, it should be honored as a virtue, at all times.

Not so for the Depression-era political left, of course. Saving behavior, as with other manifestations of individualism, might require moderation at times, systemically, to advance the common good.  Communitarian comes close to encompassing this perspective.

What, then, if the contemporary world no longer favors either, or?  Left or right? One or the other?  What if the contemporary challenge encourages—balancing—living discretely out of previously what were thought to be mutually exclusive values?

Indeed, what if the good citizen is becoming someone who, simultaneously, balances individualism at levels of family and person, with communitarianism, at aggregate levels of community, nation, even planet?

From Boulder, Colorado, this is Jim Sawyer for Capitalism in Crisis Dot Org.