Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Is Nationalization Killing the Protestant Work Ethic?

Critics called nationalization of the banking industry in America as nothing more than rewarding failure, but will it ultimately kill the Protestant work ethic in the long run?

By: Vanessa Uy

President Obama really did scored big during the London G20 summit back in April 2, 2009 for leading the way in allowing the attendant countries to reach a consensus in tackling our on-going global financial crisis. Even though France, Germany and the rest of the EU were very reluctant at first in “throwing money at the problem” via economic stimulus packages – given that this is the very thing that saved Japan from her economic “Lost Decade”.

But back in America, populist anger has been brewing since the start of 2009 over TARP-fund misappropriation through overly extravagant executive bonuses of the likes of AIG and their ilk. Many now see the nationalization of ailing banks and other financial institutions as nothing more than rewarding failure. The question now is will nationalization – which many economic pundits believe mark the death-knell of American capitalism – is now poised to kill off another cherished American value – namely the Protestant work ethic?

Even though the Protestant work ethic had become inexplicably linked to the Reagan-era “greed-driven” economic prosperity of the 1980s, even though the concept already reached full-bloom in 20th Century America where everyone – especially the “Turn of the Century” (1900s) immigrants – stating that anyone who works hard will be rewarded handsomely. But Capitol Hill’s current flirtation with nationalization, where failing financial institutions are unfairly rewarded through the TARP funds, does sound just like a repeat of the dubious concepts of the past. Like the Johnson Administration-era redistribution of wealth of the mid-1960s - a.k.a. “War on Poverty” which usually just resulted in a heavier tax burden and fewer crucial services for the working poor and the middle classes.

Hastily set-up ill conceived government programs like the outgoing Bush Administration’s TARP funds to bail out ailing banks and other financial and corporate institutions became the focus of populist anger. Especially during the first few months of 2009 were economic and financial issues are as politically polarizing as religious extremism – given the ever-increasing number of job losses and home foreclosures.

Poorly executed government programs of “social service” – especially the TARP funds which to me are nothing more than welfare of billionaires who are taking too many risky financial decisions for their own good – do more harm than good. Especially when the American taxpayer are now the underwriters of their ill-conceived high-risk financial adventurism. They tend to undermine the Protestant work ethic that made the post World War II American economy the gold standard of capitalism. Nationalism – especially when it is poorly executed – will ultimately lower productivity. Which only serves to bolster the idea harbored by socialist-leaning anti-capitalists who think that capitalism cannot reform itself. Looks like those Ché Guevara T-shirts will never go out of fashion.

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