Sunday, April 13, 2008

In the News: A Rant

Nothing important here but in reading the Times today, there were a few articles inspired me to toss in my 2 cents.

A Fresh Look at the Apostle of Free Markets: I have long been whatever the opposite of a Milton Friedman disiciple is (a realist? a thinking person? not a moron?). Granted, I've never done the extensive research on the subject that Friedman and his acolytes have done, but I believe that unregulated markets do not ultimately benefit the consumer—in fact, it seems to me that they always benefit big business at the expense of the consumer. I'm sure there are examples that will contradict my belief, and I welcome anyone to begin a discussion on this topic in the comments; but I can name dozens of examples where the unrestrained market failed and the American taxpayers were left holding a rather sizable bag.

Bad Bet: the recent rush by many state and local governments to "rake in the enormous piles of money just waiting out there for them" in the form of revenues from gambling is embarrassing. It's as deluded as the idea of getting rich off of gambling by gambling—does anyone not know that the odds always favor the house? Now, I actually have nothing against gambling as a form of entertainment: I have a friend who is an avid poker player (I know that sounds suspiciously like "some of my best friends are..."); he's told me about the parlors where he plays here in NYC and, from what I can tell, I think these parlors should be legal: they hardly seem to be raking in the kind of dough that would make them terribly attractive to organized crime. But neither do I think they should be sold to the public as enormous, untapped sources of wealth for the common good. Just as state lotteries have not vastly improved the condition of schools in our country (if they have improved them at all), casinos are not the panacea for underfunded state budgets: they're just another ponzi scheme, my friends.

Finally, I followed a link from this article to the Barack Obama... store? I dunno... I run a non-profit arts group, and yes, we have links to amazon on our website. And, hey: at least this way, if I buy a Barack '08 button, the campaign is getting the profit instead of some button manufacturer in Ohio (who's probably a Republican! don't you hate that?). I'm sure I'll get it used to it and even applaud it, but this Brave New World sometimes feels... distasteful. But that sounds exactly like what a middle-aged white guy who says things like, "Some of my best friends are...", would say, doesn't it? Incidentally, I'm not a big fan of the "Consumed" articles in the Times Magazine... but I almost always read them: what does that say about me...?

(My apologies to Edvard Munch, whose painting deserves more than the unimaginative employment that it has now received at my hand...)

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