Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You Got Yourself Into This Mess...

I grew up in the land of consequences. When I was about 8 years old, my grandmother was taking drink orders for us kids at Christmas dinner. Being my smart-ass, 8 year old self, I asked for rye and water. So she brought me a (very small) glass of rye and water. I told her I was only joking, but she refused to bring me anything else until I finished it. And so I learned two very valuable lessons: 8 year olds don't like the taste of rye, and be careful what you wish for.

I think I kind of lucked out with my parents. A lot of people think they should be glad for all the times their parents were there for them, and I sure am (or I would be if I could think of any... kidding!).

What I am more grateful for is the times they weren't there for me. I'm talking about the times they said things like “you got yourself into this mess, get yourself out of it.” Because I learned that I could get myself out of those messes. I learned that screwing up wasn't the end of the world and that I was capable of a lot more than I thought. That life goes on. And I got to learn these things as a kid. Becasue of coddling by their parents, these are lessons a lot of people my age are only starting to learn for themselves and let me tell you, learning is a lot harder as you get older.

During those times, I'm sure I felt like I'd been abandoned, that my parents were jerks. I suspect it was as hard, if not harder, for my parents to watch me struggle than it would have been for them to step in. They were motivated, however, by wanting me to succeed later in life, ie, to get me out of their house.

I sort of feel like this is all a good analogy for the current market woes. People asked for capitalism, and by gum, that's what they got. Virtually unbridled, unregulated access to markets. And what did they do with it? They blew it. They took out loans they couldn't afford; they loaned money to people who couldn't afford it. They lied to each other; and they invested in things about which they knew not. People wanted capitalism but they didn't want to shoulder the responsibility and do their due diligence.

So now what does everyone expect? For mom and dad, AKA the government, to bail them out. Well, you know what I say? You got yourself into this mess, get yourself out of it.

Of course, the government doesn't have the same motivation my parents did. The government wants to keep people under their roof. Because that's where they can control them. And think of it this way: which is going to garner more votes now? The quick, easy solution that falls apart after 10 years or less? or the long, hard, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps solution which results in a much more sustainable economy where everyone gets a shot at being happy?

It's too bad, because I think now might be a good chance for the economy to learn that it's not the end of the world if the government doesn't bail you out. The way I see it is this: the price of capitalism is personal responsibility for all transactions. People didn't pony up and I suspect that what we get next will carry a much heavier price tag: freedom.