Assisted Free Enterprise
One of the more bizarre experiences I've had over the past few months is having members of the financial services community say to me that they were voting against Obama because he would bring Socialism to America. This was after they had bitterly complained about the federal government not rescuing Bear Sterns and the $700 billion bailout for their industry had been approved. They were adamant that Socialism didn't/would never/should not exist in the U.S.
George Will in yesterday's Washington Post eloquently explains what I tried to say to these folks: the pure free enterprise economy the financial community insists we have in the United States, with their approval hasn't really existed for quite some time.
At least since the Great Depression (and probably since the earliest days of the Republic), free enterprise and free markets have existed in the United States only when times have been good and markets have been rising. Falling prices, failing businesses, declining markets, and job losses have all been reasons for publicly supported massive government intervention in the economy that has led to some type of redistribution.
The redistribution hasn't just been demanded from lower-income, left wing participants in the economy. In fact, from farm owners to Wall Street moguls to corporate titans, this has been expected, required, demanded even from the most fiscally conservative and wealthy. That's why there are agricultural price supports, bailouts, the Federal Reserve, and tax breaks for certain corporate and individual activities along with Medicare and Medicaid.
This is not a rant; although I disagree with some of these forms of government support the point is to recognize that it exists rather than condemn it to hell.
But, as Will points out, because using the S word is inflammatory, it's probably time to come up with a new phrase -- like "assisted free enterprise" -- that describes the U.S. economy without being provocative.