Letters to the Editor

Voice of the People - April 12, 2008

Government works for common good

Mojo's nose is twitching again. He pointed it toward a recent letter to The Herald and suggested that the page might be used to wrap the cat's litter. (Now the secret is out, Mojo shares his home with not one but two cats. I have assured him that doesn't damage his image but rather enhances it as someone with the ability to reach across all sorts of lines.)

I am not connected with Winthrop University or any other area college as the writer of the letter, Charles Blackwell, requested. However, I did graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in industrial management and know something about economics.

I'm a capitalist who believes that maximizing profit in the long run, through free market forces, is generally in the best interest of society. However, I also understand that in the ups and downs of a cyclical economy, there is a place for government intervention to lessen the downs and enhance the ups. I also understand that maximizing profit in the long run without being concerned about the public good can lead to slavery, child labor, Enron and predatory lending. You see, unfortunately, alongside market forces at work in our economy, forces described theologically as the total depravity of humanity are also at work. Without checks and balances, all of us are capable of doing injury. So, there are times when those we elect to represent us in the public square provide checks and balances in the form of such things as a Federal Reserve System, child labor laws, usery laws and a bipartisan effort to stimulate an economy that is struggling under the weight of the sub-prime fiasco.

One definition of socialism is government ownership of the means of production. Neither I, nor Sens. Clinton or Obama are socialists. We do believe, along with most citiziens of our country, that there is such a thing as the common good. And that, interestingly enough, private companies that understand their task as seeking profit maximization in the long run with a heart do quite well.

The most troubling portion of the letter was its assigning of the title traitor to others who don't agree with the author. As an infantry officer, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, a basic building block of which is the freedom of thought and expression. A lesson from history is that the first step toward totalitarian rule from the right or the left is scapegoating those who disagree with us as traitors.

Perhaps Mr. Blackwell would benefit from attending one of the institutions of higher learning he challenges. My understanding is that they offer continuing education in both economics and history.

Mojo, is pawing at me. He has told me that he was wrong to consign Mr. Blackwell's letter to the cat litter. "After all," he barked, "his letter caused us to write our letter. Therefore, The Herald became a place for the free exchange of ideas. And that's a good thing." Indeed it is.