Unhealthy “sin and penance” economics

Michael Kruse points out the fallacy of much of our economic thinking. It is interesting how we can be on opposite sides of the debate, but share the same basic presuppositions or worldview.

. . . All too often a “sin and penance” mode is adopted by competing parties. Problems we confront are caused because of someone’s transgression the reasoning goes. The challenge is to ferret out who the sinner is, vilify them, compel them to do penance for their evil deeds, and then compel them to fly straight in the future.

Take the issue of poverty in emerging nations. Many progressives identify the cause of abject poverty as exploitation by capitalist nations and multi-national corporations. Therefore, these sinners must be compelled to take corrective measures. Debt cancellation, foreign aid, and banishment from trade within these emerging nations are just penance. Pursuit of this retribution becomes a moral crusade for progressives.

Meanwhile, many conservatives identify mismanagement and corruption as the cause of abject poverty. Giving aid to such nations is just throwing good money after bad. Emerging nations need to pull themselves up by there bootstraps, stop “sinning,” and just take advantage of the global market like other once poor nations did. Penance is to let them suffer in their misery until they come to their senses. “Tough love” becomes a moral crusade for conservatives.

In my estimation, using the moralistic “sin and penance” model does much to enhance one’s personal self-righteousness and little to actually address problems at hand. A better model is to think in terms of health care.

A physician looks to benchmarks of what a healthy person looks like and then from that begins a diagnosis of a patient’s ailments. Once a diagnosis is reached, a regimen of treatment is begun. Seeking penance from someone believed to have caused the disease is not usually part of the agenda. . .

Read the whole post.

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