One of the really distressing things about the collapse of the economy, the subsequent bailouts of banks and industries that were "too big to fail," and the colossal criminality of the Bernie Madoff affair has been the culpability of the government regulators whose job it was to keep such things from happening. Fingers have been pointed in every direction and much political hay has been made, but somehow we've missed a fundamental point.
I wrote in this space a week or so ago about the hidden cost of the economic mess being the death of trust - in our leaders and institutions, and in each other. I'm not, of course, the only person who has seen this. A great op-ed article by Richard Cohen in yesterday's Washington Post eloquently carries on with the ideas I tried to espouse in my earlier post. You can read his entire article here, but this is one of the key passages:
"After years of Republicans (and some Democrats) insisting that the market was always right, that it was always self-correcting, that it was both magical and sexy, a manifestation of God and what he intends, and that government, that foul-breathed picker of your pocket, could do nothing right, you finally got a government that, at least in this case, actually could do nothing right. Talent went into the private sector, where not only the money was but the prestige as well. The respected public servant morphed into the loathed bureaucrat -- not the solution to any problem, but the problem itself, in the simplistic formulation of Ronald Reagan, whose contributions to the woes of our times have yet to be fully appreciated."
I love it. "Talent went into the private sector, where not only the money was but the prestige as well. The respected public servant morphed into the loathed bureaucrat." I have certainly not been shy about castigating government bureaucrats who have forgotten that public service is a public trust, and I have nothing but scorn for the petty politicians whose absolute focus on party doctrinal purity and the search for power trumps our desperate need for practical and flexible leadership. Yes, Mr Cohen is right: we have the SEC, and the larger government, that we deserve.
The sad problem is that we don't seem to be able to realize it.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.